International Women’s Day and Whales

A group of young women are standing in a line ready to pose for the photograph. They are smiling and laughing

When I was growing up in the 1980’s, there was a huge campaign to Save The Whales . I remember badges, posters and huge anti-whaling protests. Everybody agreed that these animals needed some help.

During this long campaign to save the whales, I never once heard anybody say ‘What about the rhinos?’ or ‘What about the tigers?’. 

March 8th is International Women’s Day. I hear lots of people saying ‘What about men?’. My response to this question is:

‘To support one thing does not mean you are against another thing. Saving the whales didn’t damage the rhinos. When you read the blog about phrasal verbs did you ask ‘What about idioms?’’

Have a look at this video on the subject of  ‘Whataboutery/ Whataboutism’ and please  understand that the subject of this blog is ‘women’s rights’. 

The next question is, ‘Why do women’s rights need support?’.

I am a white European, middle class, cis-gender, straight, able-bodied woman. I come from a place of extreme privilege. My life is very different to the lives of women who live in different countries, have a different skin colour to mine, are trans-gender/sexual or have a non-majority sexuality or body. My relative freedom from gender-based violence and discrimination is extreme. I feel very empowered. However, below are a few of my reasons for focusing on women’s rights on International Women’s Day:

Women are roughly 50% of the population of the planet Earth. I do not see women represented in 50% of leadership roles, positions of power or even movies and sports. This means my rights and interests are not equally represented.

In my country, if I have a heart attack, I am more likely to die than a man who has a heart attack. This is because women have different symptoms to men so they are often mis-diagnosed.

Medical and drug trials are nearly always carried out on men. Diagnosis and treatments do not work the same for women. Additionally there is a gender pain bias in healthcare.

Watch Made in Dagenham to learn about the British law made in 1970 to ensure men and women receive equal pay. This International Women’s Day, there is still a gender pay gap which is documented by the UK government. During COVID, women have been disproportionately affected because of their work and roles in society.

In the UK and around the world, many menstruating girls and women miss days at school or work because they don’t have enough money to buy period protection products. This only widens inequalities. There are a number of campaigns trying to help this situation.

I‘m sure you have heard of #Metoo. I don’t know a single woman without a story of sexual harassment. Starting when I was a child aged 14, I have been cat-called, touched, followed at night, threatened, and had my personal space invaded by men around the world. This woman’s experience is something that most women will understand.

Trans-women suffer even more violence and discrimination than trans-men. Some small groups of feminists protest against trans-women’s rights. Anyone, male or female, can be misogynistic. 

In Britain, it is growing increasingly acceptable for a woman to do ‘men’s work’ or wear ‘men’s clothes’, but for a little boy who wants to wear a pink dress or a man who wants to be a house-husband, there is still a lot of resistance.

These stereotypes are learnt from society which means they can also be unlearnt. Since the Save the Whales campaign, there have been enormous changes in the world. Maybe we can all copy this little girl and start making some of the changes we need to help people think differently and promote equal rights of opportunity for all people of all sexes and genders.

Comprehension Questions

Let’s have a quick comprehension check. Some of the answers are in the links:

1) Which animal was there a campaign to save in the 1980’s?

  1. Whale.
  2. Rhino.
  3. Tiger.

2) Do I believe that I am a privileged person?

3) In Britain in 2018,  there were more men named  ______ or ______  leading FTSE100 companies than there were women or ethnic minorities.

4) What is the name of the test about women’s representation in films?

5) What kind of factory is in the film ‘Made in Dagenham’?

6) ‘to cat-call’ means:

  1. To call a cat to come home.
  2. To telephone someone for free.
  3. To shout at someone in the street.

7) Which famous author was recently accused of being against the rights of trans-women?

8) What item of clothing was the little girl complaining about?

You can book a free trial lesson today to discuss this topic in more detail, and talk about your English learning goals with an experienced and friendly English teacher.

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This blog was written by Intrepid English Teacher Jo.

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