International (Working) Women’s Day

It’s hard to know what to write on this International (Working) Women’s Day. The issues facing women living under patriarchy remain pretty much what they always are: there’s a basic structural power imbalance, leveraged against women, against people of colour, against people with disabilities, against the working class, against GLBTQ people. This is reflected in how our labour is valued (what jobs we’re allowed to have, how much (less) we’ll be paid, how high we’re allowed to rise), in whether crimes against us are (not) taken seriously, in the fact that people from those groups live life on a higher difficulty setting than others.

The gender pay gap is in the spotlight again, both in terms of blatant women-getting-paid-less-than-men-for-the-same-job discrimination, and also the issue of women’s work, especially “nurturing” care work, being paid less than comparable “men’s” jobs. And when you break gender pay discrimination down by ethnicity, it gets a lot worse if you’re not Pākehā.

The government’s consistent undermining of work rights, refusal to even consider the concept of a living wage,  disprorportionately affects women. The focus by our Ministry of Women’s Affairs (and other groups like the National Council of Women) is still on getting more women onto boards, as though benefiting a few overwhelmingly white, well-off, educated, middle-aged cis women is going to trickle down some equality to the rest of us.

It’s definitely a problem though, given that in a survey of 1,500 large US corporations, there were more CEOs called John – or David – than there were women. With any name.

Women still carry the majority of the burden for housekeeping and child-rearing, which impacts on their careers and financial independence:

About 35 percent of New Zealand women work part-time because they also need to do housework and care for children and other dependents. Even though New Zealand men participate in domestic work more than men in other industrialised countries, women in New Zealand do more than double the unpaid house-work and care.

The issue of our corrections system imprisoning trans women in male prisons has gotten some long-overdue attention – and the violence which is doled out to people who stand against the mainstreaming of once-radical events.

It’s still probably going to take me longer to repay my student loan than my partner – even though his was about double mine when he finished uni.

One could go on and on listing the ways that sexism, and other types of prejudice, impact women’s lives. There’s a concerted campaign online to push women out of gaming and the tech industry. In this year’s Academy Awards there were no women nominated for directing, screenwriting, or cinematography, and no actors of colour. New Zealand’s abortion laws are still stuck in 1977. Our Minister for Women’s Affairs thinks that beauty pageants, which still primarily exist to reinforce narrow stereotypes about women’s value, are great ways to build women’s confidence (presumably so they can get on boards.) Our Prime Minister retracted his promise to apologise to a rape victim after he found out her politics were leftwing.

There has been some progress, absolutely; but there’s still a very long way to go before any of the most damaging effects of patriarchy can be considered cured, or even particularly dented.

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