International Women‘s Day and Comic Relief.
International Women‘s Day celebrates its 14th year in 1991, but still lacks widespread official recognition. Sue Wilson looks at the obstacle of ‘post-feminism‘, and suggests we could learn a lesson from Iceland.
If you didn‘t know that 8 March was International Women‘s Day. don‘t worry — you‘re not alone. Despite being formalised b" the UN General Assembly in 1977. it has yet to gain widespread official recognition. It was Originally proposed to commemorate strikes by New York women workers in 1907—8 against sweatshops and child labour. and was adopted by the Second International in 1910 as a ‘unified international demonstration. to be celebrated in the movement for women‘s rights. peace and freedom.‘ More recently. sincc feminism‘s resurgence in the 1960s. it has been taken up by women‘s organisations. trade unions and some local authorities as a date around which to focus activities.
Ronnie MacDonald. secretary of the STUC Women‘s Committee. believes that women have made some major advances in recent years ‘I think that a women‘s agenda does now exist. in trade unions for example.‘ she says. ‘Unions are now looking at issues of primary concern to women. which were hitherto never considered important. Negotiators are now considering ideas like putting childcare, say. on the bargaining agenda rather than another half-percent pay increase.‘ Many problems remain, however. ‘Women in the
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Anna Munro, organiser of the Womenjs Freedom League in the West ofScotland
workforce continue to be largely low-paid. their skills undervalued. Apart from some kind of volcanic explosion. I don‘t know how we‘re going to change that in a hurry. but we‘ve got to keep plugging away. There are entrenched male attitudes in the labour market; to counter that we have to look to our educational programme. confidence building and so on. so that women feel able to speak up and make sure their areas of concern are addressed.‘
Ms MacDonald was speaking on the eve of a gathering last Saturday. probably the first of its kind. of women from all political parties. to discuss policies on childcare provision. At the press
conference beforehand. much was also said about the under-representation ofwomen in politics, a question examined at some length by the Scottish Constitutional Convention. following input from women‘s organisations such as the STUC committee. ‘If and when we get Scottish self-government. I think the men are going to find they‘ve suddenly got a lot more competition.‘ said Hilary Campbell from the Liberal Democrats. ‘1 know a great many women who would like to stand as candidates. but haven‘t so far because they have families, and commuting to Westminster simply isn‘t feasible. But they‘ll be queueing up to stand for a Scottish parliament.‘
Despite such optimism. the fact that issues as fundamental as childcare still remain to be tackled gives the lie to claims that a new ‘post-feminist‘ era has dawned. Essentially a media creation. an offshoot of yuppie-dom. the notion was that the battle for equality was won. women could discard their dungarees. retrieve their bras from the braziers and get on with being ‘feminine‘ again, safe in the knowledge that they could make it to the boardroom if they wanted to. In fact, ‘post-feminism‘ has proved to be yet another obstacle for women. Feminism itself has become even more of a dirty word — with all the battles ‘won‘ it‘s unfashionable. supposedly redundant; any problems women encounter now must be our own fault.
On a more positive note. the wide range of events taking place on IWD this year. from large-scale conferences to free skateboarding lessons for girls. seems to indicate a healthy level of interest and activity. especially since most of them are organised by individual women‘s and community groups.
In Iceland, apparently. 8 March is a national day off for women - they do none of their normally ‘invisible‘ work — cooking. cleaning. childcare; the chaos this causes emphasises the importance of such labour to the economy. Maybe we could try that here next year.
See Open Listings for details on International Women ‘5 Day events.
Lenny Henry‘s face on TV every five minutes, a sudden proliferation of bad jokes and strange red protuberances on people's faces, cars and now buildings - it can only mean one thing: yes, it‘s Comic Relief time again.
With its use of cringe-makineg crass means for irrelufably laudable ends, Comic Relief has always aroused mixed feelings. Apart from anything else, what do (apparently very widespread) suppressed desires to put on fancy dress, push beds around, wear red noses and generally make an
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idiot of oneself at the drop of a worthy cause say about the state of our national psyche? More seriously, the relentlessly upbeat and lighthearted
the first place.
Gulf. Apart from the television
approach of Comic Relief tends to distract from any discussion of why the Third World needs charity from us in
Still, it does raise a lot of money, mostly for development work in Africa but with a significant amount going to charities closer to home. The first two Red Nose Days generated thirty grants (total value £351,698) to Sfrathclyde and thirty-six (£257,658) to the l Lothians for projects including youth ! homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse ‘ and pensioners rights. This year, a I proportion is also being allocated for post-war humanitarian relief in the
extravaganza and simple donations,
the main element is the plethora of fundraising events devised by groups and individuals- over 50,000 last time. On 15 March, expect all the staff at your bank to be dressed as nursery- rhyme characters, to bump into three-legged racers all day and to be asked repeatedly for money. I know it sounds horribly cynical, but surely there must be better ways of tackling famine in Africa than running races in wellies full of jelly. (Sue Wilson) Anyone wanting to organise a fundraising event should phone 0898 555 444 for a Red Nose Supporters Pack.
Television and sports events for Comic Relief are listed in the relevant sections.
56 The List 8-21 March 1991