Even though I am a female who is passionate about social justice and gender equality, a huge part of me wishes it didn’t exist. I don’t want an International Women’s Day. Let me explain.
I want to live in a culture that celebrates and champions women every single day – not just one in 365. But the reality is that this is not the world that we live in. This week on threads, we’ve heard from women who have shared a different experience:
- “I was… that girl who was frequently called bossy. I was also that girl who was seen as a ‘control freak’… And the sad thing is, I know that I’m not alone. This is an experience familiar to many girls who are assertive, organised, and who exhibit leadership skills.” – I am a woman and I am a leader, by Charlotte Hendy.
- “Ambition is not a game that girls are supposed to play and more often than not we feel a pressure to make ourselves smaller for fear of intimidating anyone with the scale of said ambition.” – Ambition: no girls allowed, by Chine Mbubaegbu.
- “We have a God who made women and men with the capacity to experience beautiful, creative, mind-blowing sex. But that Gospel isn’t preached.” – Women need to talk, men need to ejaculate? By Natalie Collins.
Wouldn’t it be great if no girl or woman – or any person – ever had cause or justification to utter the statements shared by our IWD contributors?
I may not want an International Women’s Day, but I believe that we need it.
We need IWD because a pop song advocating rape culture made $16 million in profit last year. We need IWD because police and social workers in Oxfordshire perceived that girls as young as 11 consented to sex with men who raped and brutalised them. We need IWD because 66 million girls are denied an education. We need IWD because the world has forgotten about the 219 Nigerian young women abducted 326 days ago.
Discrimination against women is not a feminist issue. It’s not even a women’s issue. It’s our issue. As men and women of God, we have a responsibility to recognise the value of every person.
Sadly, we live in a society where many women are silenced, coerced, murdered, limited or forgotten simply because they are girls. They need IWD; a day to raise awareness about the continued discrimination they face. Don’t misinterpret me: girls and women need more governments, policies, structures, cultures, faiths and families who will protect, restore and champion their God-ordained worth.
But IWD is an opportunity to advocate for a better and fairer world for both genders; the world that I believe God intended:
- Women of the past like Isabella who showed tremendous courage, vision and sacrifice to enable girls like me enjoy an education. Read more.
- Young women of the present like Petra who are transforming the cultural landscape in Africa. Read more.
- Male allies like Arunachalam who has revolutionised menstrual health for rural women in developing countries by inventing a simple machine they can use to make cheap sanitary pads. Read more.
I passionately believe that each of us has the influence to shape the culture around us. The Bible inspires us to be transformers, not conformers. Our small individual counter-cultural acts matter. So what can you and I do to champion the value of every person? Here’s some ideas:
- Celebrate the women around you – your mum, sister, leader etc. Write them a letter (remember them?) or treat them in some way. But don’t make it a one-off.
- Mentor the next generation of girls – do you know a young person who shares a similar gifting to you? Take some time to invest in them and help them unleash their potential.
- Don’t be ignorant – educate yourself about gender justice issues. Read books like Half the Sky and use your voice to advocate with women on global issues like poverty, child marriage, trafficking and violence against women.
- Join a community – become a member of the Sophia Network and learn how to champion the equality of women and men in the church.
And finally, be the change. Yes, I know – quite a popular, generic phrase. But change really does starts with us. As women and men, how do we treat each other every day? On IWD 2015, let’s model a different way of living. In our relationships, let our every word and action reflect that we embrace each other’s God-given value. Let’s refuse to be lazy and believe the gender stereotypes about each other. Let’s be each other’s greatest champions. Let’s believe that both women and men are made in the image of God ordained for his mission of restoration on earth – and let’s act accordingly.
As a wise and Godly woman once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Every small individual action brings us one step closer to gender justice and a world where there is no need for an International Women’s Day.