I got flowers for Women’s Day. Nothing exceptional, it’s actually quite standard practice today, but I was flattered. It’s always nice to feel appreciated. I’ve asked everyone who gave me Mimosa (that’s the flower for WD in Italy) “why are you giving me flowers?”. A good sum up of the reasons was “because on Women’s Day we celebrate the wonderful creatures women are”.
I’ve realised Women’s Day has just become a common practice, like giving chocolate for St Valentine. A day to appreciate women per se but that’s totally wrong! – not appreciating women, of course – Women’s Day exists to remember the fights women made to get the right to vote and to remind us about the rights inequality between men and women.
It has nothing to do with flowers. It has way more in common with the pink heats of Women’s March and MeToo/Time’s Up movements. On the original Women’s Day women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment discrimination and sex discrimination.
The origin on Women’s Day goes back to Marxism and Socialism in Denmark during the Socialist Second International; a group of women including Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin were involved in discussions to promote suffrage for women and equal work rights, which were supported by socialist parties. Protests and discussions went on over US, mainly in Chicago and NY, and in many EU countries, were women marched and organised big strikes to rise the attention on equal rights. All these events were marked as “Women’s Day”.
After the WWs, when Russia started to get involved into the Cold War, many fake news around the origin of Women’s Day came out (it’s a day to remember the horrible death during a fire of more than 100 women in Cotton fabric in NY. This tragic event did happened in 1911, but has nothing to see with WD); historical memory started to be forgotten and despite several researches and facts proving that’s the real story, still few people know what Women’s Day stands for.
In 1977 UN invited members to set Women’s Day, which is celebrated the 8th of March in most countries.
Do we need Women’s Day today? You bet we do.
Yes, we made impressive steps forward on suffrage for women: UK celebrated few weeks ago 100 years of vote for women, while Saudi Arabia will get there only by 2115. In Vatican City, women have no right to vote at all.
If we look at work rights we are definitely not there yet. Pay gap is still huge almost everywhere, Iceland excluded (it’s now illegal to pay women less than men); in UK men in C level positions earn almost £12 more per hour than women. Not to consider 72% of C level workers are men. Diversity is still not seen as a value and women of colour are still way behind white women in almost all sectors.
What about pleasure and sex discrimination?
WHO defined in 2006 pleasure as a right and part of sexual health. But have we moved so far from when pleasure was a right for the husband to achieve and a duty for the wife? We are still so convinced that sex=intercourse, aka penis into vagina. That’s the same vision of sex we had at the time of fist Women’s Day back in 1908.
But Orgasm Gap is a fact, more than 80% of women need external stimulation to climax, so the p+v combination is actually not the winning one (at least for pleasure).
One of the most searched questions on Google in 2017 was “why I can’t reach orgasm?”; and we asked Google because female pleasure is still a taboo topic, not included in SexEd programs, not thought at home or between friends.
We discovered the real shape of the clitoris 20 years ago, the only organ fully dedicated to pleasure, and very few school books include it.
Since sex is the subject here (and sex discriminations), what about how our society’s scientific community has treated female dyspareunia— the severe physical pain some women experience during sex — vs. erectile dysfunction (which, while lamentable, is not painful)? PubMed has 393 clinical trials studying dyspareunia. Vaginismus? 10. Vulvodynia? 43. Erectile dysfunction? 1,954.
Speaking of pleasure, a recent American sex survey asked “why you fake orgasm?” and top 3 answers are: to please partner, to hurry-up and get done, to not hurt partner’s feelings.
In 2018 women are still so enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time, and to ignore their discomfort, in too many occasion, sex included. That seems the norm. But it’s not.
That is why we need to keep celebrating Women’s Day in its right meaning.
It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being grateful to all women who fought for us. Thanks to them we can today benefit from the rights we give (too often) for granted (like contraceptives, abortion – which have been in jeopardy today in some counties – divorce, vote and work).
Women’s Day is to remind we still have to fight to get to equality. And that includes our right for pleasure and sexual health.
We have to keep fighting. Happy Women’s Day!
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