Why it's taken a global pandemic for me to get behind IWD

Why it's taken a global pandemic for me to get behind IWD

Leith Planner Vic Milne takes an alternative angle on International Women’s Day.

I love men.

I love women.

I love all humans.

I grew up surrounded by great people; but I also grew up in the age of toxic, man-hating feminism. Maybe this breed of feminism was specific to art school in the early 90’s but it turned me off the entire concept in my most formative years.

This misandrist influence meant that I did NOT see myself as a feminist in my late teens and early 20’s. In fact I actively rejected it. To be honest it has taken me several decades to identify as a feminist under the definition that feminism means gender equality, not anti-men.

Feminism is the belief that all genders should have equal rights and opportunities, meaning that the ideals that come out of it are for the benefit of everyone.

I dislike anything that celebrates and lauds one gender over another, with the result that I have always found the noise and fuss around International Women's Day distasteful and counterproductive in the pursuit of equality.

However, this covid caper over the last year has changed that.

This painful year of us all living in the bin has had many awful consequences, but one that has to be recognised and addressed this International Women's Day is how negatively it has impacted the lives of women and girls worldwide.

Women are facing the prospect of 50 years of progress being put into reverse because of the disproportionate effect the crisis has had on their lives.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted last year that “COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women's rights”, and sadly now in 2021 those words appear to be a prediction rather than a warning.

Prepare to feel like you’ve woken up in 1951 as I take you through the top 3 reasons I urge you to recognise IWD’s efforts to call out inequality this year:

1 - Childcare and domestic labour:

Since the first lockdown, a disproportionate amount of childcare and domestic labour duties have fallen to women.

Researchers from Boston Consulting Group, found that working women currently spend an average of 15 hours a week more on unpaid domestic labour than men.

This pattern repeats regardless of income. Research from March and April 2020 showed that working women in the UK, Germany and the US did more childcare and home-schooling across all wage brackets, compared to men with similar earnings.

2: Job losses and livelihood

The worst affected employment sectors are traditionally staffed by women, the care sector, retail, beauty and workplace maintenance. A year ago, women outnumbered men in the U.S. workforce, but in December 2020 they accounted for 100% of jobs lost.

70% of single parents in the UK are women and we still earn less, so more and more of us have had no choice but to step back from work during the lockdown. In the EU, women earn an average 16% less an hour than men, while the figure rises to 18% in the US, and is substantially higher in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Women are also more likely to work part-time.

This is confounded by the fact that 71% of working mothers were refused furlough in the UK.

But Mums don’t have a monopoly on the misery - women, young and old are seeing their jobs and future prospects disappear. Employment losses in September 2020 in the USA were the largest in occupations requiring personal contact (e.g., retail, personal care), where women account for nearly three-quarters of employment.

3: Risk of Violence

The violence and abuse against women and girls that is heightened by security, health and money concerns has worsened during lockdown. Police reports from China show that domestic violence tripled during the epidemic there. According to the United Nations Population Fund, every three months of lockdown could result in 15 million more cases of domestic violence than would be expected.

This pattern is repeated globally:

Why it's taken a global pandemic for me to get behind IWD

It’s rubbish, we are all losing our minds with the injustice of it; but despite that, it doesn’t make me hate men, blame them or even dislike them.

It’s true that we still live in a patriarchal society and are quick to discuss how that harms women and others, but how often do we ask what this means for men?

Men too live with rigid gender roles, pressures, discrimination and harmful stereotypes. Boys and men are still brought up in a society that tells them to man up, ask if they are man enough and sensitivity, vulnerability or mistakes are discouraged.

The sad truth is that for every female suicide there are 3 male suicides, and this rises to nearly four times that for men in my age group. Middle-aged people have the lowest levels of personal wellbeing, but middle-aged men are even less happy and less satisfied than unhappy, unsatisfied middle-aged women.

A growing number of these are middle class men in high pressure jobs who have been brought up to adhere to harmful gender norms.

Men are also more likely to die from this shitty disease: Data gathered in more than 20 countries by Global Health 50/50 confirmed in June 2020 that women are infected with COVID as frequently as men but men are more likely to die from it. The ratio of mortality according to sex is about one-third to two-thirds.

This is not a binary argument, the lives of transgender and non-binary people have also been thrown into freefall during this shitstorm.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to medical care was restricted for nearly all non-acute medical conditions. Due to their status as a vulnerable social group and the inherent need for transition-related treatments (e.g., hormone treatment), transgender people have been affected particularly severely by the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Maybe when we emerge from this bin-fire and the new-normal becomes a better-normal we can throw off these harmful gender labels.

Perhaps we could consolidate the International Men/Women/Transgender/Non-Binary Days and have an International All Genders day.

But, until that time, please save these dates in your diaries.

The 8th of March is International Women’s day. IWD is dedicated to helping forge a gender equal world.Celebrating women's achievements and increasing visibility, while calling out inequality and this year's theme is ‘Choose to challenge’ god knows we’ve faced enough challenges this year so now it's our turn to challenge back.

The 19th of November is International Men’s Day. IMD takes a gender-inclusive approach, and therefore believes in ensuring that issues affecting women and girls are also resolved. It recognises the intersection between gender and other factors, such as race and sexuality, which can compound the inequalities affecting men and boys.

March 31, 2021, will mark the 12th annual International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV). The event celebrates the resilience and success of transgender and gender nonconforming people and raises awareness of transgender rights.

Victoria Milne
Victoria Milne

Vic is a planner. She likes disagreeing with people, but knows she is not always right.