International Women's Day: How's that leaving no woman behind thing working out for you?

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The breakfasts are over, the cupcakes have been scoffed and the ribbons have been thrown away; International Women's Day is over for another year — and not a moment too soon, for Noely Neate.

International Women’s Day, thank Dog that's over, well, in Australia at least, for me. And… it is all about me. Actually, as a female in this nation, it is not all about me, which is why I get so cranky about it.

The concept of International Women’s Day I love. I really do. One day of the year to honour women’s achievements, raise issues specific to women and discuss what more needs to be done to achieve equality for women – all women – it should not be that hard. But it is.

In between the shots of "prominent" women having breakfast, corporations hijacking the "feels" and politicians pretending they give a rats, you might have forgotten the point of this day is to 'Leave No Woman Behind'.

(Image via unwomen.org.au)

Let’s see how “Leave No Woman Behind” worked out for us yesterday?

For starters, most of us women didn’t have the luxury to do breakfast, lunch, even the stupid cupcake rubbish some advocate, coz – you know – working, being a parent, or just plain too busy surviving  to even realise it was International Women’s Day (IWD) and wouldn’t have cared less even if they did because, what has it ever done for them? That is a hell of a lot of women left behind.

Of course there are the breakfasts. The bloody breakfasts!

Why? Who the hell thought making a woman’s working day even bloody longer with a 6.30am start for a breakfast was a good idea?

  1. If you have a kid, forget it, you can’t even attend as no childcare or school is going let you dump the kid at 6am – or earlier – so you can frock up and do breakfast, FFS!
  2. For most of them, unless you are already on a good wicket, which most women are not, well, you can’t even afford to go to most of these breakfasts.
  3. How many of the corporations who sponsor these breakfasts, getting the touchy feely PR bonus for pretending to care about the laydeez actually even have gender equality in their own organisations? I know most now have some sort of sweetly worded "aims" or "goals", but c'mon, it's been decades since they jumped on this bandwagon and the only discernible improvement has been there ability to get more PR each year.

Surely if we are going to celebrate women, particularly in the workforce, wouldn't it be more sensible to have a "lunch" where, for one day of the year, you don’t get docked your pay if you attend? I mean, I don’t want to upset our precious conservatives feels, but it did start as a scary socialist "thing" with women protesting working conditions in 1909, so would it not make sense that when it came to celebrating achievements of women in the workforce we actually did that during work time? Instead of leaving behind all those women who have kids or can’t afford to attend a breakfast? You know? The ones for whom International Women’s Day is supposed to be "pressing for progress" for?

Let us not forget the blokes at the breakfast with their ribbons. I’d prefer if we could – forget them that is – as that is one of the reasons I get so infuriated on IWD.

The conga line of politicians, mostly blokes of course, coz, well, it is Australia after all and we have a Conservative Government, which somehow to everyone’s surprise* seems to have trouble finding women of "merit" when it comes to female MPs. They hobnob at their breakfasts and pretty much just spend all their time telling us their "aspirations" for women, then lament the lack of progress for women (like they have no control over that arrrrggghhhhh!) and, of course, either start or finish with the obligatory “I’m blessed with strong women in my life” type thing. Or in our PM’s case, it is, of course, “Lucy and I…”. This is repeated every year — not always the same blokes, but same theme.

There are heaps of things government could do to assist in "pressing for progress" for women and ensuring "no women is left behind".

A few examples:

  • Invest more money in domestic violence shelters.
  • Provide access to free legal advice and domestic violence leave.
  • Take the bloody tax off sanitary items. And no, News Ltd, it would NOT be "cutting a tax" as the bloody tax should never have been applied in the first place as it is an "essential good". Seriously, read it and weep – this is the lede news.com.au used to troll women in Australia 'Tampon tax cut: Big step for equality or ‘politically correct mistake’?” on IWD because, of course, the biggest news of the day should be what our annoying bloody former PM and Minister for Women thinks. Sigh. In a wealthy country like ours, no girl should be skipping school just because they have their period? But here we are, I’ve seen it in my own community. Hell, for Indigenous girls in remote Australia, who already have it tough, it is another adversity that just should not be an issue in 2018. Read 'Indigenous girls missing school during their periods: the state of hygiene in remote Australia' and weep. These are the future women we are not supposed to be leaving behind!

I could rant all day about the soft old white blokes triggered responses to IWD. The infuriating women who seem to think this is a day for being "grateful" for the few blokes in their lives that don’t treat them like crap. Seriously, that one I don’t get. Since when are you supposed to be lauded and showered with gifts just because you could multitask — have a penis and be a decent human being all at once? Sorry, that was harsh, seriously, there is an awful lot of decent blokes out there, but IWD just brings out the poor precious buggers that find it so hard to have one day – one lousy bloody day – that is not all about them. Sigh!

Anyhow, I’m trying to be positive this year; to end each rant with something constructive to say. So, this laydee punter would like to see the following changes to IWD and how it is celebrated in Australia.

Media coverage

I get the whole “If you can see it, you can be it” and fully subscribe to that, but just showing highly paid CEO’s in their designer clothes as shining examples of women’s achievements at a flash breakfast is seriously narrow.

I want to see more scientists, more teachers who have made a difference, more emergency service people who have broken the blokey barriers, Indigenous and multicultural women who have stood proud and improved the lot for other women, farming women and so on — you get the drift. I’d also like to see some "punters" – some "ordinary" women and hear their stories on how their lives have improved – or not improved – over the years and what can be done to address that?

For the beautiful people and the pollies

Get out of the flash hotels

If you have to be in the city, organise a lunch for homeless women, treat them and, more importantly, find out why they are homeless. Talk to them, try to understand exactly why they have been left behind. Or do a lunch with girls from the lowest socioeconomic school you have in your area.

Talk to them, find out what adversity they have, if possible encourage them to "press for progress" and not be trapped in a life of poverty and disadvantage.

Get out of the city

Politicians in particular, you represent all over Australia. Find the women who are left behind in your electorate and do lunch with them. You all have massive entitlements you don’t mind abusing to go to the footy or polo, so use them for good.

If you are a regional MP, then visit the poorest area in your electorate, shout the women there a free lunch and listen to what their issues are. Then go back to Canberra and try to improve their lives, you know, like a "representative" is supposed to do, not leave people – in this case women – behind.

Same with you senators. Find the most remote or socially disadvantaged areas in each state and do the same. You know, you could even surprise us by co-operating. Scary, I know, but just imagine if say all the senators from one state (from all parties) sat down, had a meeting, worked out where the most disadvantaged areas were in their state, remote, regional and city, divvied up the list and headed off to those targeted areas to shout the women there an IWD lunch and do a bit a listening so you could go back to Senate and "press for progress" for them?

In the meantime, to all you women out there, quietly doing the best you can to ensure a future generation of women have more opportunity and face less adversity than you did: all power to you and thank you! You are the real stars on International Women’s Day!



* Actually not surprised. Thought I better state that, in case you were new to my random rantings and didn’t realise that statement was dripping with sarcasm 😉

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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