Suzanne Harrington: International Women’s Day sticks in the craw

Suzanne Harrington: International Women’s Day sticks in the craw

Suzanne Harrington: International Women’s Day sticks in the craw

But women are every where now — a man once exclaimed to the journalist Caroline Criado Perez.

She’d been campaigning to get Jane Austen on UK banknotes, instead of the usual dead men in wigs. For her trouble, she was relentlessly trolled and death-threatened.

This is the world we live in — women threatened with rape and murder, from behind that manly cloak of digital invisibility, for wanting something as innocuous as a woman’s face on a banknote (see also all those big brave men who have been digitally bullying teenager Greta Thunberg).

Nevertheless, she persisted, and Jane’s face did eventually make it onto sterling tenners. Criado Perez went on to write a book, Invisible Women, showing via data how men remain the default human model, with everything from crash test dummies to underground car parks to public loos designed not with women in mind.

Gender bias is everywhere, and everyday.

From blind orchestra auditions increasing the hiring of female musicians by 50%, to 50% of female heart attacks being misdiagnosed because heart attacks belong to men, to the average office being five degrees too cold for the average women, because ‘room temperature’ was calculated 50 years ago using a man aged 40 as the average human (women have slower metabolisms).

The list is long, random, and all- pervasive, from the size of our smart phones to Google voice recognition favouring male voices, to workplaces designed without childcare in mind.

But women are everywhere now!

Indeed we are, ladies. Like the coronavirus, we’re global. And yesterday we celebrated — if that’s the right word — International Women’s Day. The implication — that is, the fact — being that the other 364 days don’t belong to us. Let’s give ladies our own special day.

To be clear, this is not anti-men.

Being anti-men is primitive and alienating, and besides, men can be perfectly delightful sometimes.

No, this is about conscious and unconscious gender bias, deeply rooted in the culture; just as men can be feminists, women can collude with the patriarchy.

And yes, that sucks, but being born with XX chromosomes does not automatically preclude you from being awful: See Ivanka Trump, Priti Patel, Ursula the Sea Witch...

Yet International Women’s Day, for all its good intentions and important equality messages, kind of sticks in the lady gullet.

We should not, in the 21st century, still require a special day dedicated to us, given how there are almost 4bn of us. We are not some endangered species of tropical tree frog, but make up 49.6% of the global population. We are not a minority, but remain treated like one.

The tragedy is that we have yet to harness our global collective power. Were we to stop co-operating so nicely, so unreservedly, the world would grind to a halt by lunchtime.

Imagine if women downed tools outside the formal workplace and withdrew all unpaid labour, all emotional labour. Every day would be International Women’s Day.

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