Be Bold for International Women’s Day 2017

womens rights
YWCA Members in Solomon Islands, in support of Women’s Rights on IWD / Copyright DFAT (Aust)

My 10yo spawnling asked me today, with all sincerity and innocence, “Why do we have International Women’s Day?” And frankly, I wasn’t sure I was bold enough to give him the honest answer.

When we talk of Women’s Rights, the majority of people think of the worst case scenarios: sex slavery; domestic violence; right to education; child brides. In contemporary society, we take it for granted how far we have come with women’s rights. As parents, we merely hope our kids don’t have to fight the same battles as ourselves, or generations before.

Now that IWD2017 has arrived, the question comes up again: Why do we still have this day? Have we not achieved enough? Why are US, Australian, and European women still protesting for women’s rights?

Because we still don’t talk enough about it.

Yep. I said it. We still have soooooo many taboo topics relating specifically to women, it opens the door to other people making decisions for us. And THAT takes away our rights as women.

Take the female body for example. Menstruation. Severe period pain. Incontinence. Hysterectomies. Morning Sickness. Miscarried pregnancies. Each of these topics is considered to be discussions kept for hushed corners and old-lady knitting circles. If you’re lucky.

Social media has changed this a lot, allowing us communities to start the discussion and raise awareness. Even create funny memes. But without the bold, vocal voice of even just a small handful of women, legislators still think they can go ahead and make laws for the female body.

Okay, let’s look at Menstruation. Nobody likes talking about it because as awesome as the whole ‘life-giving force’ persuasion may be, it’s still gross. And comes with health risks. Oh yeah, and tax. That’s right—we still have Tampon Tax. It’s not a separate tax specifically for feminine hygiene products, but there are a bunch of places around the world who still think these are luxury items, and thus not exempt from sales tax.

We never used to talk about it, so it became some silent policy issue, made for our benefit because women are clearly too fragile to make these decisions themselves (please tell me you read my sarcasm in that sentence).

Another example: miscarried pregnancies. I have had two. And I distinctly remember the reaction to the first one because while I was bleeding out on a hospital bed and going into shock, our eldest spawnling (Sinister – then 7yo) was breaking down at school in front of teachers who didn’t know how to talk a child about a miscarry.

Let’s face it—no-one knew how to talk to me about a miscarry.

It was only at that point I realised how much legislation governs the female body. We have laws defining what a miscarried pregnancy is; laws about what to do after a miscarry; laws about access to contraception; laws about complications. Lots and lots of law.

We have lawmakers who honestly believe they have a duty to make laws around the female body because we are ‘hosts’. Not humans. Not ‘vessels of awesomeness, passing wisdom in utero’ (that’s my fave—you’re free to use it). Just ‘hosts’ without any other contribution.

If we don’t talk about the impact of miscarried pregnancies on us as women, and on our families, then we can’t talk about the importance of the female reproductive system to females. You know those organs you’re talking about in your laws regarding saving the baby over saving the mother? Yeah, those organs are attached to me. A person.

All of these thoughts were bouncing around in my head when Sinister asked me about International Women’s Day. All of these thoughts about women’s rights and why we still have this one day a year to highlight them.

I thought about every time I have asked about women’s rights and been told we have enough. I thought about the Women’s Marches earlier this year and the people who accused us of not thinking about women who are ‘worse off than us’ or the needs that differ to our own.

And that’s when I found my answer:

It is not a competition about which culture or country or race or religion can give women more rights. It is not even a matter of counting how many rights we have achieved, or by which date we achieved them.

International Women’s Day is about empowering us to speak for ourselves. All of us. To remove the stigma of any female-centric topic, and allow our voices to be heard. By regaining our rights to govern our own bodies in one country, we can show it can be done in another.

When we are bold enough to talk about it, we remove the mystery that gives way to misunderstanding and include the next generation in making it better. We give them a voice, to speak out about any policy that looks at women as merely a taxpayer, a host, a thing.

I’ll admit. I paused, concerned I may have over–geeked on the social reasoning with our spawnling. But then he responded:

“Can I still talk about your miscarry? I mean, can I talk about you and what you went through with the miscarry? What it meant to you and your body?”

With my blessing. Be my voice. And be bold.