We asked our Creative Services Intern Rachel Innes what International Women’s Day means to her and she reflected on the negative stereotypes that surround being a woman today.
Today is International Women’s Day and it has come to my attention that a lot of people don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘woman’ and thus they stereotype and ascribe a meaning to it for themselves.
What does being a woman really mean?
I would imagine that if you were to ask 100 people what the word ‘woman’ meant you would get about 100 different responses. For me, and I believe this should be the meaning for all, a woman is a person who chooses to be a woman. This is unlike the dictionary meaning of the word, which is “an adult female”. Think about it, are you a woman? A man? Neither?
Women are not to be confused with females. Each person has a sex, a gender, and a sexuality. Females are people with female reproductive systems, whereas a woman does not need a female reproductive system to be a woman. There is no checklist, there is no box to fit into to be a woman; if you want to be a woman then you are a woman.
Unveiling the stereotype
With the word ‘woman’ there are many stereotypes; to name a few would be a person who is feminine and submissive, someone who takes part in traditionally feminine activities such as cooking and cleaning. However one of the most harmful stereotypes of them all, I think, is that a woman has to be a person with a female reproductive system.
Stereotypes come from ignorance and from stereotypes come harm to all people. Not only are women harmed by these stereotypes but also transgender people, people who are neither women nor men or any other person who identifies as a non-binary gender. These stereotypes push people into boxes whether they fit or not, they are being forced to conform to some abstract social standards.
For people who do identify as women there are many barriers and obstacles put into their path (such as unequal pay and higher rates of sexual/domestic violence). Some call this the glass ceiling. Women are beaten, women are condemned, and women are disadvantaged – just because of their gender.
What’s the way forward?
People have spoken about this for years, more recently the #likeagirl campaign and slams poems; for example ‘rape poem to end all rape poems’ on YouTube from Rutgers University.
But why? Why does this happen? Women have been dealing with sexism for thousands of years and it’s an issue that has, in the past 10 years, become a topic of hot debate.
For women to become viewed as equal, people will need to work together to break down these stereotypes and begin to work towards making the world a fairer and more united space for all.
People have tried to change this many times before; Collective Shout, Sydney Feminists, and many more. The issue with these movements is that some people aren’t listening, many people don’t care, and many more people doubt that this is still an issue.
So what do you think? How can we break down the stereotypes? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Rachel Innes, Creative Services Intern, The Copy Collective