Opinion

This week’s news has shown why we still need International Women’s Day

08 Mar 2021 4 minutes Read
Sonja Mclaughlan, Meghan Markle picture by Northern Ireland Office (CC BY 2.0), Nicola Sturgeon picture by First Minister of Scotland (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Llinos Dafydd

Today is International Women’s Day and anyone who thinks that such a day is no longer needed only needs to take a look at the news over the last week.

First, we had reporter Sonja McLaughlan, abused online after the live broadcast of Wales’ 40-24 Six Nations win over England in Cardiff.

The reason she was inundated with abusive comments? She asked England and Wales captains Owen Farrell and Alun Wyn Jones some questions about the referring decisions after the match.

These are men who throw themselves in rucks for a living, but according to the online trolls can’t take a bit of light verbal probing by a woman.

Then on Wednesday, it was the turn on Nicola Sturgeon in the ducking stool. She was asked by MSP Murdo Fraser to say sorry to the people of Scotland about the behaviour of her predecessor, Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon rightly replied: “I think the only person who should apologise for any behaviour on his part which he was asked to do on Friday and failed to do is Alex Salmond.”

Would a male First Minister have been asked to apologise for the actions of her processor in this way? I think not.

Thirdly we had Meghan Markle, who has had the full power of the Royal Family PR machine unleashed against her with bullying allegations before her interview with Oprah Winfrey.

As well as being racist, the ‘angry woman’ trope is one we can all recognise. Why is it that men who throw their weight around are respected as leaders, while women are portrayed as having lost the plot?

Llinos Dafydd

Now, these are all in their own way privileged women. One is a member of the Royal Family, the other a First Minister and the other a BBC presenter.

They all have a platform. When they open their mouths to speak, others flock around to hear what they have to say.

Some people will as a result say that they don’t need to be defended – they live a life of privilege and can all look after themselves.

But what is telling I think is that even women in such positions of power have found themselves bullied, ridiculed and expected not to challenge the opinions of men.

And the more they spoke out and refused to be silent, the more the jeering replies intensified.

If even a member of the Royal Family, a First Minister, and a BBC presenter have to put up with this nonsense, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Fairness

What’s also obvious is that these women are being made an example of, in order to keep the rest of us in our place.

So what can International Women’s Day do to help? It’s not to tell women to be strong. Women are already strong – we’ve had to be.

What it’s about is coming together and backing each other so that we don’t have to worry about the backlash by men (and other narrow-minded women) when we do so.

We need to be able to raise our voice as one without feeling marginalised, and also to normalise subjects that are stigmatised such as rape and sexual assault, and eating disorders.

I’m the mother of four daughters and don’t want them to have to put up with what the generations before them have.

Things can change. I’m lucky in my job to be working for two companies full of awesome women in positions of authority.

I’m also the editor of Lysh Cymru, a platform for giving voice to 12-16-year-old women, which is a massive privilege.

But we need everyone to play their part in order to ensure fairness for women, and not be afraid to raise our voices and challenge authority.

However much progress we’ve made so far we still haven’t made it to a future based on equality. But if we speak up together – and for each other – there’s no reason why we can’t change that together.

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