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Issue #1905      March 2, 2020

Editorial

International Women’s Day

8 March 2020 is 119 years since the inauguration of International Women’s Day (IWD), which is a good time to consider its significance in contemporary society.

The history of the IWD goes back to the early twentieth century when people were fighting questionable labour laws. It was during this period that women were agitating for the right to vote, forming a growing suffrage movement, uniting to expose their oppression. Since then, women have constantly challenged the systems, structures, and cultures that still exist after centuries of inequality. Although legislation has been put in place to secure access to sexual and reproductive health, and protection from violence, it fails to do so. We still need to understand the root causes of gender inequality which still exist.

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s role in society: so why, in 2020, is gender equality yet to be achieved? In Australia – an allegedly modern country – the statistics on domestic violence are horrific. Only last week Hannah Clarke, a beautiful young woman and her three lovely children were burnt alive by the “patriarch” of the family. How should we define “gender equality”? If women are not shown respect by those in positions of power, who keep systems in place which deny women their full potential, we must expect violations of women’s rights and discrimination based on gender. Men will feel free to continue to beat and kill their partners. We should question a society which produces men who feel threatened by the idea of women’s equality.

We live in a globalised, capitalist society and the natural condition of capitalism is competition, which has never been more pronounced. The constant striving to be successful, to be the “top of the pile” pervades our consciousness and this is blatantly obvious by the complete lack of ethics or moral behaviour by those in power – not only in Canberra but worldwide. Their well-hidden but prevailing contempt for women percolates through our society. Currently, in Australia especially, women are still not equally represented in positions of power, and while this discrimination at the parliamentary level continues, such systems – both politically and socially – are designed specifically for women to fail. Gender inequality is perpetuated by both formal and informal systems, structures, and attitudes. In order to achieve a truly systemic change, the laws, policies, and cultural norms need urgent review and drastic alteration. We should be very concerned about the constant degradation of women in capitalist media, which helps promote male disdain. Women are portrayed negatively and shown as weak, vulnerable, powerless, sexual beings. In contemporary society, perspectives are based on such messages, influencing people’s judgement.

We know things can be different. After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, a women’s rights department was launched, which addressed issues such as the employment and education of women. During the capitalist rule of the Tsar, women were not educated and certainly not allowed to occupy senior positions. Lenin ensured that women and men attended classes together and shared the same philosophy. He realised the need for gender equality if the idea of communism were to succeed: shown successfully today in Cuba.

International Women’s Day was first proposed in Copenhagen in 1910 during a socialist women’s conference of 100 delegates from seventeen countries led by Clara Zetkin. With the founding of the Communist Women’s Movement in 1921, women were included in the hierarchy. In the winter and spring of 1922–23, the women’s secretariat in Berlin led campaigns on inflation, the danger of war, and education; against anti-abortion laws; and against fascism. Little has changed but women continue to fight for a better world.

Next article – Red Women Competition

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