International Women’s Day 8th March

portraits IWD

Illustrations by Katelyn Toth-Fejel and Charlotte Turner

There are as many different ways in which to mark and celebrate the lives of women, as there are women. Each woman has her own mind, her own thoughts, her own capabilities and her own dreams. This is at stark contrast to the small number of ways in which women tend to be publically depicted, seen and treated across the world in the 21st century. Whether through what we see on our screens, what we hear through the news or what we witness as we walk down the street, women are most visible depicted as commoditized perfected objects, attained through the purchase of products and accumulation of wealth, or as objects of little value or worth – the two also inextricably linked in the case of fashion. Indeed in each case, our creative sector, and specifically fashion, has a vital role to play in its solution, just as it is part of the problem.

Women, as a collective term for adult human females, rightly brings us together as social beings who recognize, in each other, fellow humanness alongside individual distinction. That fellowship is wonderful; I for one, thrive through the female friendships that I hold so dear. Today is a worldwide linking of arms in that fellowship and it is vital for two reasons (actually many, many reasons, but I will name two here). The first refers to a chosen life. Each woman in the world has the potential to offer a unique and precious contribution to the world, which can be realized only if she has a life that she has chosen. The ability to author one’s own life is the ability to choose friends, livelihoods, places to live, ways to carry out daily life, to have equity of options, the chance to carve a path that is no more difficult for one human than it is for another. Inequality exists, not only for women, but the choices for women are specifically hindered by human made barriers that we can lift. Whether cultural, political or economic, conscious and unconscious bias and inequality in the home or place of work, is hindering not only women, but also all of society. The evidence is clear that greater equity of opportunity for women leads to greater prosperity for all, in human and financial terms.

The second reason refers to the connections as well as the distinctions between women and nature. This concerns that which affects women the most and which makes women most threatened. It’s not always easy to talk about violence against women in relation to violence against nature, as our AHRC funded Habit(AT) project has found out, working with collaborators in India focusing on Violence Against Women, starkly visualising circumstances which are killing and harming women daily. Violence Against Nature is also killing and harming women, as we have found out, but in ways that do not make people directly accountable and where action is not as immediately visible. Climate change is and will affect the poorest regions of the earth hardest, with the most marginalized groups most vulnerable to its adverse consequences. Women are often the most socially and politically marginalized, which makes women most vulnerable to climate change.

So there we have it – a double whammy benefit if women have equal choice – and a double whammy atrocity if we don’t act on climate change. So lets #PledgeForParity today and celebrate our distinctions and our togetherness through fashion that acts on climate change and towards social equality.