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Let’s forget International Women’s Day, Ireland. Nothing has changed

Let’s forget International Women’s Day, Ireland. Nothing has changed


by Holly O'Neill
08th Mar 2023

Happy International Women’s Day, a day that began as a protest and is now entirely devoted to social media platitudes, sales discounts, men asking when is International Men’s Day and not much else.

On March 8th, year after year we celebrate “a call to action for accelerating gender parity” without ever seeming to get there and at this point, we’re going backwards. Where the 2010s saw an international feminist wave from MeToo to Repeal to BLM, women’s marches and strikes, feminist political and climate leaders, to movements that changed abortion rights and marriage equality, the 2020s by comparison have seen a regression. While we have the first women-led revolution in history with Iranian women fighting against gender apartheid and the Iranian dictatorship, and on the political agenda we are tackling inequality from period poverty to online protection laws, we also see the US overturning of Roe v Wade, pandemic, climate catastrophe, war, a housing, childcare, health and cost of living crisis, a rise in gender-based violence and a backlash against feminism that has brought about a slew of misogynistic male role models and performative toxic masculinity from Andrew Tate to the Proud Boys to incels, men’s rights activists and pick-up artists.

So, besides screaming into your pillow when you get a text about an International Women’s Day discount from an Anti-Wrinkle Clinic or when your boss posts “a woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water” – why must we be put in hot water, why are they always about how well we survive in horrible circumstances – on her Instagram Stories, how has this annual global celebration accelerated us in tackling the obstacles of women’s liberation?

Let’s take a quick look online and see how we’re celebrating women’s achievements today in entertainment news. Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez are fighting and sadly, not in the fun Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury way, just in a way that makes people behave insanely in social media comments. Rebel Wilson is saying that Prince Harry is great but Meghan Markle has the neck to not be “naturally warm.” The Victoria Secret’s fashion show is coming back and there’s a global shortage of a breakthrough diabetes drug because we’re using it all up to lose weight quickly. It’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s fault that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face, Madonna is doing ageing wrong, whatever is going on with Andrew Tate, Glastonbury’s 2023 headliners include zero women and only one non-white woman has received a Best Actress Oscar in the award’s nearly 100-year history.

The gender pay gap

Alright then, entertainment news is still setting us back but we’ve definitely made some societal changes, right? What about the gender pay gap? Well, according to a study from WIN International, 48% of those studied believe women have lesser opportunities available in Ireland and when compared to the opinion of women globally, Irish females state that gender discrepancy in pay is greater, with 1 in 3 stating that females get lesser pay than male co-workers. More on that here. Also, an analysis carried out by PwC Ireland of up to 500 firms based in Ireland that published gender pay gap reports in December found a mean gap of 12.6% with 87% of companies disclosing a gender pay gap in favour of males.

Women in leadership positions

Alright, so we haven’t got a handle on the gender pay gap. What about women in power? Do we have access to equal opportunity there at least? Well, no. Only 23% of the Dáil is made up of female politicians, placing us at 100th in the world for gender inclusivity. One in eight CEO’s in Ireland are women. The composition of Boards of Directors of large enterprises in Ireland in 2021 was 78% male. More on that again here.

Gender-based and sexual violence

Alright, so we’re getting nowhere there. What about the other obstacles to women’s liberation? How about gender-based violence and sexual violence? According to the WIN International study, there’s been an increase in incidence of violence (+1%) in Ireland especially affecting the younger cohort. In Ireland, 244 women have been murdered since 1996. In resolved cases, 87% of women were killed by a man known to them, and 13% were killed by a stranger. Current or former male intimate partners were responsible for 57% of the resolved cases. The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence stated that 29% of women in Ireland have been affected by domestic abuse. Research by Women’s Aid on young women and men in Ireland found that 1 in 5 young women have experienced intimate partner abuse. In 2021, the number of reported sexual offences was 3,306, compared to 3,020 in 2020. The number of sexual assaults reported was up by 18% compared with 2020. Research by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland found that over 20% of women aged 18-34 experience financial abuse and do not have control over their money.

Reproductive restrictions

Well at the very least, can’t we at least say we have handled reproductive restrictions with no interference from church or state? Yeah, not quite. Four years after Ireland’s generation-defining vote for free, safe and legal abortion access and ten years after the death of Savita Halappanavar, only one in 10 GPs and just over half of maternity hospitals provide abortion services. Women from Ireland are still travelling for abortions – 375 pregnant people had to travel to England and Wales in 2019, and our new National Maternity Hospital is on land owned and leased by the church and a religious order has representation on the Board.

The redress scheme is retriggering the trauma of the survivors of the mothers and baby homes, where about 56,000 women and about 57,000 children were placed or born at the homes, which doubled as orphanages and adoption agencies, and up to 9,000 children died in appalling conditions. There remains no clear deadline for work to begin on the long-awaited excavation of the Tuam site, where allegedly up to 800 children were buried.

So, happy International Women’s Day! Remind me what we’re celebrating again? Let’s not do this again next year. Don’t let the girlbosses and inspirational quotes get you down. Here’s the only one that matters anyway, from Constance Markievicz – “If you want to walk around Ireland, or any other country, dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver.”