The Socialist 13 March 2004 |
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Celebrating International Women's Day
Over 30 women and some men attended and all London International Women's Day meeting on Saturday 6th March organised by Socialist women and International Socialist Resistance. Natasha Burke from Lambeth reports.
On International Women's Day - End the sexism, end low
Come along and join our fight - to end the sexist stereotype!
These were the chants of supporters of International Socialist Resistance (ISR), Socialist Women, and the Socialist Party, as we protested outside IPC Media, the publishers of the men's magazine, Nuts!
MANY WOMEN feel that there has been an increase in sexism in society recently. Many young women, in particular, are angry about the way that women are portrayed in the media and in advertising. Sarah Mayo gives her personal opinions about this issue, in the third article below.
Celebrating International Women's Day
Over 30 women and some men attended and all London
International Women's Day meeting on Saturday 6th March organised by
Socialist women and International Socialist Resistance. Natasha Burke from
There were many good speakers at the meeting. The main
topics discussed were the French Government's ban on the wearing of
ostentatious religious symbols in schools and whether there is a new sexism
Theresa Mackay, from the Socialist Party and a member of
the TGWU, talked about the history of International Women's Day. In 1910, an
international conference of Socialist women agreed that 8 march should be
the day to celebrate the struggle of working-class women worldwide. Theresa
gave examples of how women in the trade unions have battle to improve
working conditions over many years.
Tanja Niemeier, from the Committee for a Workers'
International (CWI), spoke about the polarised views within groups on the
left over the French Government's ban on the wearing of the hijab
(headscarf). Some left groups in France are supporting the ban and the
expulsion of school students.
It was discussed that many women wear the hijab out of
choice and not oppression. They see wearing it as liberation, as they are
not judged according to their looks and do not have to constantly try to
achieve the unrealistic image expectations dictated by the media.
Because of the ban, there has been an increase in racist
attacks on Muslim women in France. The plight of Muslim women living in
oppressive male dominated regimes was discussed and how the French
Government's contradictory 'forced liberation' will make the situation worse
for many Muslim women, denying some a state education.
Zena Awad introduced the discussion on the new sexism.
Low wages are still a reality for many women. Rape and sexual assaults are
on the increase and media pressures on women to attain unrealistic ideals of
beauty are contributing to an increase in eating disorders and expensive,
sometimes dangerous, cosmetic surgery. "Old-style" feminism is
seen as a "victim feminism" and New feminism is seen as
"power feminism". Modern mainstream feminism is about individual
women being powerful and successful, as opposed to the liberation of all
Sick Of Sexism? We Are!
On International Women's Day - End the sexism, end low pay! Come along and join our fight - to end the sexist stereotype! These were the chants of supporters of International Socialist Resistance (ISR), Socialist Women, and the Socialist Party, as we protested outside IPC Media, the publishers of the men's magazine, Nuts!
Ruth Williams, Hackney
Armed with placards, banners, leaflets and copies of the socialist we set out to tell IPC Media exactly what we thought of their sexist magazine.
Security guards quickly arrived on the scene, accusing us of trespassing on private property and escorted us onto the pavement. But we weren't deterred. Our chanting attracted the attention of women and men passing by, as well as those working for IPC Media. We leafleted and sold ten copies of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) "Statement on International Women's Day".
Writers from Nuts magazine did their best to intimidate us, and proudly announced who they worked for. They even sent out a photographer to take photos of our protest. But when Sara Sachs-Eldridge, the London organiser for ISR, challenged them to a public debate on the issue of sexism in the media, of course they quickly refused!
Ads like the ones for Nuts, at first may seem humorous, but actually reinforce sexist stereotypes, and imply that women are stupid airheads, incapable of doing anything without the help of a man.
They send out the message that what we look like is more important than what we think, say, or do. They reflect the outdated notion that women are second-class citizens, which helps to justify our exploitation and the violence many of us suffer.
But as one passer-by pointed out, magazines like Nuts aren't just derogatory towards women, they're insulting to men, implying they're not interested in anything more taxing than images of tits and two pages on footballers spitting!
ISR and the Socialist Party oppose all forms of discrimination and actively campaign against sexism, racism and homophobia wherever we find it. Understanding and challenging sexism is central to the struggle for an end to inequality and oppression in all its forms.
MANY WOMEN feel that there has been an increase in sexism in society recently. Many young women, in particular, are angry about the way that women are portrayed in the media and in advertising. Sarah Mayo gives her personal opinions about this issue.
IN THE Socialist Party we are against a rotten capitalist world that means a tiny minority of individuals 'own' as much wealth as 48 countries.
A world that can only offer working class people and youth a future of endless wars, economic uncertainty and environmental disaster.
In such an obscenely unequal world as this, based on deep class divisions, I think it is no surprise that women, and working class women in particular face a 'double oppression'. Women make up 50% of the world's workforce and if you take into account the unpaid work in the home, women do two-thirds of the world's work for one-tenth of the income.
In Britain, the media is constantly telling us that 'equality is just round the corner.' Young women do have more freedom. Yet, in reality, we still come up against the same old barriers that our mothers and grandmothers faced at work, school, college and home.
30 years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid on average 75% of men's wages, and this gap increases for part-time women workers.
I think the government, the media and big business look for ways to justify this economic exploitation of women, and sexism is a very effective tool to do this. I think that the growth of sexist advertising, 'lad mags' and tabloid images of women is a really serious problem.
In recent years, it seems it has become increasingly socially acceptable for some men to behave as sexist pigs, so long as it's 'ironic' and just about 'having a laugh'. When I've been at work, I have sometimes tried to challenge sexist images, but it is hard going when you are doing it on your own. I've suggested - radically it seems - that there is more to being a women than just having a pair of tits.
I want to challenge sexism effectively but it is not always easy at all. My workmates responded by insulting me and even trying to isolate me. My supervisor found out about what happened and her advice was "to put on your headsets if you're offended by conversations about sex".
She completely missed the point of course. The problem I have is with SEXISM. It is NOT with SEX (or men for that matter either). I feel I have to use capitals because this is a commonly misunderstood point. Just because I'm opposed to page 3 it does NOT mean I'm against either sex or nudity. If everyone wants to run around naked in a park then that's fine, I have no problem with that.
Most people are reluctant to challenge these things because there is a real fear that people will think you are a prude, that you hate sex, never have any, or that you are some kind of 'man-hating, hairy-legged, mad, lesbian feminist nut.'
The last point also shows how there is a lot of homophobia amongst those who think that sexism is OK. Homophobia and sexism have the same source in traditional ideas about the role of women in capitalist society.
Socialists in the trade unions work to build strong, fighting workers' organisations that will take on our low-paying employers and a New Labour government that is totally in the hands if big business. The main problem with sexism is that, as well as undermining women, it divides working-class people.
To be fully effective the trade union movement needs to be totally united. The role of our party in the trade unions is to explain sensitively but CLEARLY that sexist attitudes will not win women workers (who usually face the worst wages and conditions in manufacturing as well as in the service sector) to the struggle to improve conditions for all workers.
I think this is a vitally urgent task. All across the country there are workplaces like mine and there are thousands of women workers like me who need to know that our trade unions will totally back us in the fight against sexism at work and in society as a whole.
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