To me International Women’s Day is about gender equality and empowering women. On days like today I feel extremely lucky to live in a country that does that, yes there’s room for improvement and yes I still experience sexism on a regular basis but on the whole I think the UK does a pretty good job. I have visited many different countries around the world in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Australasia (South America and Antarctica are on my list) and I have experienced gender equality and gender discrimination in most of them. I was also pleasantly surprised by some. South East Asia displayed some inspiring examples of bad-ass women bosses such as to-the-point business women in Thailand and fierce bar owners in Vietnam. In fact most of the work being done in Vietnam seemed to be by the women, I am basing this observation on my limited experience during my travels through the country over a three week period but it’s what I saw.
Australia and New Zealand were also near the top of my list for gender equality, having experienced no real sexism that I can remember during my year long visit to Australia and two months in New Zealand. Without doubt though the winner of the gender equal region is Scandinavia, this will come as no surprise to many of you and again this is based purely on my experience but not only did I not encounter any sexism but Scandinavia takes gender equality to the next level.
One example that stands out in my memory is when I visited a friend of a friend in Amsterdam. We were in a bar with friend-of-friend and were talking about bar culture in different countries, she said that feminism in Amsterdam was at such a level that men actively avoid approaching women in bars and it is usually the women who will start up a conversation with a man if she likes the look of him. When I think of the ducks I drive past the pond on my way to work every day without fail I will see a drake chasing a female, and it makes me think that there isn’t a wonder that’s how we behave as humans. There is not one female animal I can think of that will chase the male during mating season. I think perhaps a huge shift needs to happen in the other direction in order for equality to be real.
I often hear men complaining that women don’t actually want equality, they want to have their cake and eat it too, but I am a strong believer in a case-by-case evaluation. For instance I was watching RuPaul’s drag race and the “pit crew” were being ogled by RuPaul and the contestants, my other half commented that if it was men making eyes at women that would be frowned upon but because it’s queens admiring men it’s allowed. My reply was that it’s not the same, women have been objectified by men for centuries and there’s a long history of oppressive and offensive behaviour to remember. No two situations will be the same but the human race can certainly make an effort on the whole to have general rules that are equal and fair to further gender equality and the empowerment of women on every continent.