Standing up for women

Today is International Women's Day, and if those words are enough to make you stop reading then this message is aimed squarely at you.

Don't switch off; read on. The challenge for men and women, as the 21st century keeps throwing up new technical, environmental, social and gender issues, is to pay attention, and care.

So don't pretend an issue does not exist, and don't dismiss it if it does not affect you. It may well affect your wife, daughter, mother, sister, workmate or friend.

Keep reading. Because the challenge of today - both on International Women's Day and in our general day and age - is to be the kind of man (or woman) who puts down their work or preconceptions and keeps - or starts - listening.

If you still consider yourself and those around you to be unaffected by issues that affect women more than men, lucky you. But there is always space to take up a fight on someone else's behalf.

It could be on a personal or general level. Are you a supporter of the Me Too movement against sexual harassment - or have you switched off and think it's all too Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein?

Think again, and google its inception.

Me Too may have only recently reached the common man or woman's table or television screen thanks to the voices of international film stars, but it was founded in 2006 by a youth worker finding out the horror of a young girl being sexually abused by her stepfather.

Now the "me too" phrase encompasses a range of abuse, grief, support and solidarity.

It should be respected, as should other "slogans", phrases and labels based only in truth and fact but which are not always accepted as such.

Many still explain away evidence of the gender pay gap and, when presented with the horrific violence women suffer at the hands of men, remind men are victims of violence too.

We know this. No-one is diminishing that, and all victims of crime, discrimination or inequitable pay rates - female or male - deserve support for any defence, fight or form of self-preservation they pursue.

But women still consistently come out as the losers in statistics about crime, pay and executive representation in the workplace.

That cannot be denied, so don't feed the myth by having an unconscious bias or ignoring the facts.

Still reading? Then ask why feminism has become a "dirty" word to some, scoffed at by some women as well as men, who are nervous about or unwilling to call themselves feminists.

Do some more reading. The Collins dictionary defines feminism as the belief and aim that women should have the same rights, power and opportunities as men. What thinking person would not want that?

If you would like your daughter or wife to be paid fairly, be safe in her home and on the streets and not talked over the top of at workplace meetings, support all women by modelling your own positive behaviour, and tackling others about negative behaviours.

If you made it to the end of this, congratulations for having an open mind.

Work now to have a clear conscience too, by having done everything you can to support women in any bid they make for freedom, respect, choice or advancement, whether it be in career, family or community. Don't wriggle out of your responsibility to help.

But remember also that today is not just for the women of New Zealand, but of the world.

The fight can be more desperate for women and girls living under other regimes elsewhere, and leading different and more difficult lives.

Let's all acknowledge progress made in many areas, but keep doing our bit.

As feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem once said: "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights".


 

Comments

Social Media reveals that many men don't actually like women. If you point this out, they take it as a slight on their orientation.

Women comprise 51% of the population, are enabling rather than directive.

Scorn the distaff, and you'll be sconed.

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