International Women’s Day 2009

International Women's Day Logo

It saddens me to advise that today (8th March – not accounting for my local timezone here) is International Women’s Day. And the reason that I am sad? It is because IWD need exist at all. To me, it is just another sign of the socially-exclusive behaviour that dominates human societies, irrespective of how “advanced” those societies might be.

Sexism is possibly one of the worst forms of discrimination. Whilst it appears easy for people to take offence at people who are from different countries, may have a different skin colour, have different religions or philosophical beliefs, might walk a bit funny, have different sexual preferences, use their left hands – ooh, all those horrible things – women seem to be singled out as being in some way defective in a horribly large number of societies. Women are not a minority, we have women in our families. Hey, our mothers are women! I try to understand the prejudices that I see in an attempt to understand these naked apes that seem to be dominating and/or trashing this planet; difference = unknown = a threat. But women? Don’t want to speculate on demographics, but half the world’s human population consists of women; other than the different roles in the reproductive process, they are not so different. As a part of our families they should certainly not be unknown. So where’s the threat?

Moving on from the philosophical side and my utter incomprehension of why women should be treated like Space Aliens (and illegal ones a that,) a look at the theme of IWD 2009, per the United Nations:

Women and men united to end violence against women and girls

Ah, practical stuff and something we can all agree on! Possibly. I tend towards the pessimistic and wonder if a lifetime of the species of abuse against the female contingent can be realistically curtailed. Whilst I assume not, cultural changes can at least make it less acceptable and therefore – hopefully – reduce the frequency and stigmatise the offenders.

I am saddened to say that much of my cynicism, pessimism and various other ‘isms that make me think that the lot of women is not going to suddenly get better comes from recent experience. It is now just over 8 years since I moved to my adoptive nation, Australia. This young nation, land of opportunity, a place where everyone gets a “fair go” seems to have gone badly wrong somewhere as the attitude towards women here doesn’t seem to be any better than that prevelant at the time of first colonisation. I thought that maybe what I was seeing was just a characteristic of the rural area where I live; in such areas attitudes are often behind the times. It appears, however, that this is not the case. I am reliably advised by women, professionals from Big Cities, that sexism here is fully rife and showing little sign of going away any time soon.

Be it far from it for me to suggest that Australia is a specifically misanthropic nation; I believe that the conditions for women in Australia are probably typical of most of the “developed” (never saying exactly what is developed – certainly not socially) world.

I find it hard to conclude this article; I am disgusted by what I see, I don’t see it getting any better. Even if it did get better for women, I could probably re-write this article a dozen more times, each time picking up on another group, often close to home, that is a victim of discrimination.

So, although this may seem like I have a) gone off on a tangent or b) completely lost it, I would suggest a reading of Frank Herbert’s “God Emperor of Dune”, with attention being given to Leto’s discourses on the role and history of the Fish Speakers. Reading the orignal trilogy first is probably a good idea.

Further Reading