Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Monday 21st August 2017 | Manchester, UK

Celebrating Women: The Fight against Gender Inequality

‘Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us’ – Christabel Pankhurst
From Christabeland Emmeline Pankhurst to Pragna Patel, throughout history women have fought against the oppressive shackles that bind them to motherhood and the home. Whilst our society is typically viewed through an optic of progression, it would be an oversight to assume that we are free from gender prejudice and discrimination. The fight for gender equality still exists as a reality across the globe.
How many festivals celebrate womanhood? Approaching this question from a typically modern, British perspective, I immediately thought of Mother’s Day. Conforming to the ideological boundaries that have played a role in defining women, this traditional festival reinforces the importance of motherhood and the influential role of mothers within society.
Yet the fundamental ideology that cements this celebration within the annual calendar is not without suspicion. Is it a product of gender inequality? A device adopted to remind women of their place within society? Regardless of any potential ulterior motive, it is undeniable that Mother’s Day exists as a form of appreciation; a day when children can express their love and gratitude towards their mothers, thanking them for the work they do in the home and the role they play in shaping their lives.
Every year on March 8th, men and women around the world gather to celebrate International Women’s Day.Created as a product of the socialist movement, this annual celebration has gained global recognition; even declared by many countries as a national holiday. Whilst one interpretation adopts the festivities as a declaration of respect, and love towards women, to others it symbolises the achievements of women throughout history. The United Nations uses International Women’s Day to promote political and social awareness, bringing to light the global struggles of women that still exist today.
On one hand recognising the progression of women, this celebration also serves as a form of propaganda; furthering efforts to achieve equality. Yet International Women’s Day has frequently existed as a source of contention. Celebrations of this event have sparked cases of violence in Iran, highlighted by police brutality in 2007 at a rally in Tehran. Clearly gender inequality is not a status of age gone past. There are many who still strive to preserve the gender hierarchies that have dominated societal and political history.
Crimes against women and the fight for equality in India are a frequent feature of national and international media coverage. Whilst the Constitution of India strives to protect the rights of women, it would be naïve to assume they are free from prejudice and discrimination. The victimisation of women exists as a continuous struggle across the county. Forced prostitution, rape and acid throwing are mere examples of the violence Indian women face on a daily basis.
In 2012, the Delhi gang rape erupted across global media. A 23-year-old was beaten and gang raped by a group of six men on a private bus and later died from the injuries she sustained during the attack. Her death has served to symbolise the struggle against the rape of women, as public protests called for the provision of adequate security for women in India.
Embodying feminine felicitation, every year the Hindu women of Telangana unite to celebrate Bathukamma. A sea of colour, the traditional saris and jewels symbolise the importance assigned to this celebration. The beauty of the women, and the grace of their attire, reflects the splendour of this floral festival. Bathukamma serves to worship Maha Gauri Devi, the patron goddess of womanhood. Festivals, such as Bathukamma, present a united front amongst women. A celebration of womanhood, there is no doubt that those involved can utilise the tradition to evoke feminine pridein the face of oppression.
Many battles may have been won, however the war for global gender equality has not. Celebrating the achievements of women serves as a device to instil a sense of hope and pride within those still subjected to the oppressive and violent nature of gender equality.

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