Shoes of man and woman

Photo: The Guardian

For International Women’s Day events are taking place across the globe. DMU’s very own Janie Codona MBE held a talk earlier this week about her experiences and it got me thinking: What exactly does International Women’s Day mean for both men and women?

For some of us, it’s just like any other day. It is not even necessarily about celebrating women on a particular day, it is about celebrating women every day. It is also important to remember that men should be celebrated, too.

Regarding feminism, there is usually a wave of cheers accompanied by heavy sighs. Love it or loathe it, feminism has been around for a good while now and it certainly is not going anywhere. The suffragettes kick started the feminist movement and since then, opposition have struggled (and failed) to quell each new generation of feminists.

There are many prominent feminists throughout history: CoCo Chanel, Angelina Jolie and of course, the most recent, Emma Watson. Beyonce is hailed for being a ‘strong, independent woman’ and has used her feminist beliefs as inspiration for her music. I think it is brilliant, it really is. But sometimes it is also slightly irritating too. These women preach about being independent and not relying on anyone for anything. That is all very well when they are making millions a year and not having to worry at all financially. However for most of us, especially couples, there is a reliance on each other now more than ever.

The reality is that the expectations for both men and women have changed. Historically, men were in charge. Men provided for the home and the wives and daughters did not work so that they could maintain it. The roles were crystal clear.

I don’t want to delve too much into a history lesson, but to cut a long story short, War happened. Men went to fight but life did not just stop. Women had to step up and do what were considered ‘the men’s jobs’. The problem arose when the soldiers returned, obviously expecting their job positions to be vacant. This was completely understandable yet women wanting to maintain their new found lifestyles was also completely understandable. Neither gender was wrong but it changed life how we know it forever.

Since then, it has been an uphill struggle for balance. Men now get paternity leave and have the option to be a ‘stay-at-home-husband’ whilst the wife returns to work. But, there is stigma attached to it. Staying at home to rear the child has always typically been a female role. Returning mothers face the same stigma – surely a mother should stay at home with her new born?

I think it is completely irrelevant who stays at home and who returns to work. As long as the child has a healthy, loving upbringing, it really shouldn’t matter. I think it is great that it is an equal opportunity. Everyone focuses on how brilliant it is that women can return to work, but we should also be celebrating the fact that men now have the opportunity to stay at home instead.

I think it’s absolutely fantastic that women are being celebrated. Sexism still exists and women still often get the short straw. In certain professions, women tend to get less opportunities for promotion, and often, when they are promoted, they receive less pay than their male counterparts. There is of course still work to be done. Which is why I think it is great that women all over the world are still fighting to be equal to men. Emma Watson made a great point though – She reminded us that feminism isn’t just a battle for women and that it is time men joined the fight as well.

It’s not about making women better than men. What I think is important is that we make things equal. That is what feminism is and what it should be. Rosie Roberts, a DMU third year Psychology student, thinks that’s great because it raises awareness: “I think it’s a good opportunity to be supportive of other women and it raises awareness that equality is still an issue, even in Western society.”

Times have changed. That’s unquestionable. Men often complain that they feel confused. I don’t blame them! Before, they knew exactly what was expected. They opened doors, walked on the side of the road nearest to cars and they always picked up the bill. Women had to flutter their eyelashes, not involve themselves in ‘business matters’ and essentially act the damsel in distress.

Those times have long gone, but not entirely. Many women still appreciate a man opening a door or pulling out their chair. Equally, most men still like to feel needed and useful. The division between the genders has massively decreased and it’s growing smaller by the day. There once was a time where women wouldn’t have even considered higher education. It is an idea that’s alien to the majority of us at DMU but it’s something our parents or grandparents are very familiar with.

Personally, I think that is what we should be celebrating. Yes, women should be celebrated. As a woman, I think it’s a great idea that people come together, both men and women, to celebrate women and what we have achieved – and it’s a lot. Conversely, we should also be doing the same for men. Isn’t that the whole point of feminism? Making us equals, not opponents.