Published Sarasota Herald Tribune. March 8, 2023.
We are now celebrating International Women’s Day, which is commemorated each year on March 8. But who in America really knows about it?
International Women’s Day dates back to 1917 and it has been a recognized global holiday for almost 50 years. So it matters a lot, and I propose we use International Women’s Day to think about the world, women and how and why we view women the way we do.
Progress has been made, but challenges remain.
First, International Women’s Day matters for the world. Yes, Sarasota is beautiful in the winter; the sun shines every day and the temperatures moderate. Visitors flock here from all over, and it’s easy to focus on the beauty in front of us.
But what about the rest of the world?
I was a Peace Corps volunteer, and I have devoted years to work in far-flung corners of the world. But even if you aren’t a footloose traveler, I bet recent events like the global pandemic, mass supply chain disruptions and canceled cruise vacations made you realize how interconnected we are. We are a family of nations, for better and worse.
Next, the women part: Of course, International Women’s Day matters for women – and we should hail the fact that women have come a long way toward equality. For example, the current U.S. Congress has the highest percentage of women ever. In addition, we now have the highest number of female Fortune 500 CEOs in history.
But look more closely. That percentage of women in Congress? It’s a mere 27%, barely more than a quarter of the entire Congress. And that record-breaking percentage of women CEOs? It’s 10%. Ten! So only a small segment of women write our laws, and only a small fraction of women run our businesses.
What women are also doing is performing 75% of the unpaid care work in our country: they are taking care of children, the elderly and the ill. Women are saddled with vast hours of uncompensated burdens – just because they’re women. And since so few women run our companies and write our laws, they can’t change this.
There are also major challenges for women across the globe.
In Iran, for example, women are dying at the hands of male ‘morality police,” and it is believed that girls there are being poisoned just for going to school. Around the world, 1 in 5 women are married off before their 18 birthday –when they are children – and pay lifelong medical, financial and emotional costs.
So, really, by what measures would you say women matter?
Inequality is a crisis.
We should treat these inequalities as a crisis. But we don’t.
Why? Well, partly because we’re getting a skewed view of the world.
We get our news and images and perceptions of the world fed to us overwhelmingly by men; we see the world as men see the world. Men write the history books, run the businesses and write the laws. And they create the news and entertainment images that form our constant media diet.
Associated Press reporters? 73% men. Print journalists? 58% men. Photojournalists? 90% men. And when it comes to news reporters and specific beats, 64% of legal affairs reporters are men – and 60% of opinion columnists are men. (Women still pretty much write all the style pages, though, in case you were wondering.)
In film and television, men have more speaking parts and get far more director and cinematographer jobs – and they don’t have to get naked nearly as much as women must in order to get attention. Yes, this is still true in 2023.
We all know that our personal, lived experiences in life make a difference in our perspectives. So why aren’t all these varied perspectives reflected in our media? Unless and until we fully see and hear the perspectives of half the population, we’re never going to fully understand the world.
So on International Women’s Day – and every day of the year – let’s focus on what the world looks like through the eyes of women.
Scott Osborne is president of Through Women’s Eyes, a local 501c3 not-for-profit. She is also the chair of Through Women’s Eyes’ annual International Film Festival, which takes place March 9-13 in Sarasota.