International Women’s Day is a necessary celebration that draws attention to both the achievements and capabilities of women and the history of their systemic oppression. Since the creation of the feminist movement (here in Manchester, but we won’t brag…) there’s been measurable progress in women’s rights. Increasingly, women are being represented in government, in business, and crucially, their humanity is starting to be acknowledged in the media. The progress that has been made since the beginning of the feminist movement is unparalleled in any other social movement; women can now vote, parental responsibilities are more split than they have ever been, the pay gap is smaller than it has ever been and we even currently have a female prime minister and first ministers in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
With so much measurable progress being consistently made, many are wondering what place feminism has in contemporary society, and why there’s still a need for a Women’s Day in 2019. The simplest answer is that we just aren’t quite there yet.
Let’s remember that in 2018, the gender pay gap meant that women effectively worked for free from 10th November until the end of the year.
Since the conception of international women’s day in the early 1900s, the day has progressed through a series of themes that reflect prevalent women’s issues at that particular time. Last year we pushed back against a society that protected abusers silenced survivors of sexual violence and abuse, following the #MeToo movement and the international recognition that Time [was] Up.
Balance for Better
This year, we return to feminism’s more integral and longstanding themes; the financial, political and social equality of the sexes. 2019’s theme #BalanceforBetter invites discussion about a misrepresentation of women in the workplace, in politics and in education. At One Agency, we’re proud to boast a 50/50 gender divide, which helps us to think dynamically and universally – although we believe that our differences of opinion when it comes to football teams and the correct pronunciation of ‘bath’ divide us more than our genders do.
(Other key differences of opinion include whether it’s appropriate or not to heat up last night’s roast dinner for your lunch at work, and whether listening to 80’s music for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is a valid torture method…)
Sadly, full gender equality hasn’t yet been realised in many aspects of business or politics. Women’s education, health and violence towards women is still worse than that of men. For this reason, we love this theme of balance, which highlights that progress for women does not equal regression for men. And though International Women’s Day is a continuation of women’s progress away from oppression, we will absolutely be celebrating International Men’s Day in November, where we’ll celebrate inspiring men in our lives, healthy masculinity, and discuss the taboo surrounding men’s mental health.
So it’s true that feminism in its most original form has had to evolve with the times – first wave feminists could be accused of a toxic elitism, excluding non-white women, working class women and men in general. While it’s true that only wealthy white women could afford to burn their bras back in the 20s, and that working class women and women of colour only attained the vote years after upper class women, our Mancunian feminist pioneers had very different job to do than the feminists of today. A modern day feminism concerns itself with the universal issues that prevent equality. Concerns like toxic masculinity are harmful for both men and women, so we’re proud as an agency to promote well-being within our team universally.
Feminism and Media
Media – particularly advertising – is traditionally a male dominated space, with two prevalent issues. First is the representation of women in advertisements and popular media. The late 1960s saw an influx of artists focusing on the reconstruction of identity in the media, rewriting gender roles and challenging male dominated traditions through art history. A popular method used was to borrow elements from popular visual culture in order to question the ways in which the female body is presented in media, as either a sexual being or a ‘domestic goddess’.
In contemporary media, advertisers are curating phenomenal, successful campaigns that operate as the antithesis to these traditional ideals. Campaigns like This Girl Can and Nike’s Dream Crazier campaign celebrate the universality of resilience and strength. They’re successful because they tap into a human desire to be strong, to be successful and to pursue goals. In this way, they’re examples of how these desires relate to all genders, all abilities, and all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The other issue with feminism and media is that, candidly, high powered positions are typically dominated by men. Our Director and Sales Director, Vickie Butterworth and Nicola Orrell, had some thoughts about that.