PEACE FAWUSI discusses the empowerment of women and the unfortunate yet enlightening events that have occurred during Women’s History Month.
If “women hold up half the sky” like Mao Zedong famously said a half century ago, why are we still fighting for women to have the same rights and access to opportunities as men?
By the 20th century, Chinese women were subjected to the lowest ranking amongst the family. Unless a mother-in-law, favourite concubine, a wife of the favoured son or elite minister, a woman was considered bottom of the hierarchy (Walstedt, J., J. 1978, p.380). This can be seen in so many other countries across the world. To forego depressing ourselves over the historically international habit of belittling women, I’d firstly like to appreciate some of the creative ways women have beaten the odds.
Previously, China’s infamous One Child Policy led to “female infanticide” becoming a norm (Walstedt, J., J. 1978, p.381). With the rise of education came the revolt against archaic traditions like foot-binding, the commodification of women and other types of sexist maltreatment. Following the Chinese women’s national volleyball team’s major win back in 1984, attitudes towards women have improved significantly. Chinese sportswomen have gone on to become a source of their nation’s pride as their athletic achievements empowered the country (Kelly, W., W. and Brownell, S. 2011, p.165). A crucial period in China’s history to replace their country’s opium-marred image also turned out to be the perfect chance for women to become more proactive members of society. 1984 also became the first time that American women could participate in the marathon (Biles, R., F. 2013, p.64). Since then, we’ve seen the rise of many huge female names in sports including (but not limited to) the likes of Serena and Venus Williams, Dame Jessica Ennis, Dame Kelly Holmes, Dame Sarah Story and Naomi Osaka.
Anti-Asian and Anti-Women
Fast forward to today and what we see in the news is terrifying. It’s Women’s History Month and the murder of eight women, one in particular, have been central to current news. It’s a massacre and I haven’t even mentioned the hundreds of women who have died in the hands of others over the past year! Sarah Everard, like any of us, was walking home one night only for her face and name to be plastered across the news over the next few weeks... and why? The news has been reporting that a member of the Metropolitan Police Force – the institution that is supposed to protect us - has been charged with her murder. A further eight innocent people were killed by Robert Aaron Long, who, according to Captain Jay Baker (police officer, go figure), had been dismissed as having ‘a really bad day’.
Guys – I’m having a bad day; I had a nightmare about a murderer stalking the street I live on so I’m just going to go and rob a store. But it’s okay – I’m having ‘a really bad day’. I’ll just add that Capt. Baker had posted his support for the selling of Anti-Asian merchandise on Facebook earlier in the year. Coincidentally, of the eight killed – seven were women and six were Asian women. I must also mention here that Mr Long has since admitted to police that he had ‘a sexual addiction’ and thus the massacre was a way of eliminating his ‘temptation’ (Ruth Graham, 2021).
Hearing such a testimony suggests that the only way Mr Long knew how to treat women was to kill them once his sexual urges proved too much. I suppose in one way, his statement supports arguments of sexual assault being the fault of the aggressor and not a side effect of the victim’s wardrobe choice.
Mental Health Matters!
TV Presenter Charlotte Hawkins had the spotlight turned to her by Piers Morgan over her ‘mini-skirt’ on Good Morning Britain. I’ll just point out that it was a very lovely two-toned dress. From the same controversial presenter came the dismissal of a very, very important issue – mental health and suicide.
Finally breaking his silence over the very topical discussion surrounding the complaints received from Ofcom, Morgan tweeted: “Only 57,000? I’ve had more people than that come up & congratulate me in the street for what I said.”
Firstly, I’ll ignore the possibility that lockdown rules were broken here (MPs ignore the rules too, no point exhausting that argument); secondly, you’re proud to have said such a damaging statement? According to Samaritans.org (2019), the suicide rate for females under 25 has increased by almost 95% since 2012. And you’re proud to potentially contribute to a serious issue? Worst of all, Morgan joined Coleen Nolan at 9pm (18th March) on the very same ITV, four days after his Morgxit stunt. If a woman or person of colour were to have stormed off the stage in the same fashion as Piers Morgan, I’m sure they wouldn’t have had a job to come back to.
I was always taught to learn from my mistakes…
Whilst Piers Morgan enjoys a potentially untarnished career with his continued presence on national television, the fact that he appears to have escaped with a light slap on the wrist (those 57,000 complaints fallen on deaf ears) tells people struggling with their mental health that their feelings are invalid. I thought you weren’t going to depress us, you say. I’m not – I’m simply stating what I see. The same Western countries that brag about leading global change are the very same countries holding women back. The patriarchy still stands. We condemn and condemn, only for the same thing to be repeated and double standards to be upheld.
Well, what’s left other than to say, ‘Happy Women’s History Month’?
Written by Peace Fawusi
Kelly, William W. and Brownell, Susan, "The Olympics in East Asia: Nationalism, Regionalism, and Globalism on the Center Stage of World Sports" (2011). CEAS Occasional Publication Series. Book 3 pp.165-167