IWD 2022: Sexism is more than bias

International Women’s Day takes place on March 8th every year. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Something much needed in these past few years of a global pandemic, increase in poverty and upheaval.

As in previous years, Welsh Government publicly declared its support for women and equality.  And the International Women’s Day website produced a slogan. This year they didn’t let us down. What a corker it was.

Not only did they want people to ‘break the bias’ they also wanted us to think about imagining a gender equal world, a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.  Welsh Government finished this wonderful declaration with the statement

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Well forgive me for calling them out on this, but I hadn’t realised that this was a simple case of ‘bias’ towards women, and that we needed ‘gender’ parity to sort it out.

Sexism has nothing to do with our biological sex of course. Nothing to do with the fact that thousands of babies are killed every year because they were born female. The families didn’t wait to see what clothing they decided to wear or what pronoun they decided to use. They knew at birth that these babies were female.

Considering Welsh Government hasn’t been able to name women or girls in any of their recent policies or strategies, it’s no wonder they have got confused over what a woman is and why women are so frequently disadvantaged in all areas of life, never mind being abused, harassed and murdered. I decided therefore, that I was not going to take part in their #BreakTheBias nonsense. I was going to hold an event that women wanted to take part in and being a women I would organise it myself. So with the support of Swansea Feminist Network and Merched Cymru I organised the event.

On March 13th around 20 women and children attended the International Women’s Day event that I had organised, held in the beautiful setting of ‘The Hide’, Brynmill Park in Swansea. I had advertised it as ‘women only’ so didn’t know whether I would get any push back from the trans or non-binary community. To my relief this didn’t happen. A woman and child had travelled all the way from Newport. Another woman had come from Neath. Women only space was obviously still very much in demand.

I wanted this event to bring together women who had missed out on sisterly support and conversation during the pandemic, and for those women in my community who were looking to be a part of a local women’s network. There were tables where women could read about Welsh women through history, have a go at zine making, look through some fantastic feminist books (from my own library), look through some suffragette replicas and of course sit down and have a nice cup of tea or coffee and some chocolate biscuits.

Most importantly it was a women only space where women could be free to chat and discuss the issues they felt were important. And chat we did! For three hours, new friends were made and information exchanged that showed the value and importance of women supporting women.

The highlight of my day was giving a presentation on the Suffragettes and Emily Wilding Davison. Originally written for the 100th anniversary of Emily Wilding Davison’s death in 2013, this has become a regular feature at my events.

I delivered an hour long presentation on the history of the suffragette movement and what happened to Emily at the Epson Derby when she was trampled under the feet of the King’s horse while trying to raise awareness of the campaign for women to get the right to vote. The story never fails to stir those that hear it. Watching original black and white footage of a woman so passionate and dedicated about gaining the vote for women that she lost her life doing so still brings tears to my eyes and a feeling of gratitude that I can never repay.

We left the event with heavy hearts that over a 100 years later we are still fighting the fight. But we also left with smiles and gratitude that we had found each other. We could feel the strength gained from knowing we were not alone in this fight.