50 Reasons Why We Still Need International Women’s Day

"In case you needed a reminder that there’s still so much work to do in the fight against oppression"


Photo - Rebecca Tisdelle

There’s a misconception in North America that feminism has done its work, that equality has been achieved and that it’s a great time to be a woman.

Women have the right to vote, the right to attend schools of her choosing and the right to pursue any career that she wants. Women can decide whether to marry, who they want to marry and who’s surname they take – or not.

Canada’s laws say it’s up to a woman to decide on motherhood, and women can choose whether to have a baby or not. We’re not jailed for being women. There are laws that protect women, and countless organizations that nurture and support women.

But our work is far from done.

Every International Women’s Day, while I like to say, “Happy International Women’s Day,” I’m reminded that in Canada and the U.S., there’s a long way to go in the fight for equality.

Like feminism, the meaning of IWD extends beyond women’s rights and highlights the importance of intersectionality. It’s about fighting discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race, class, ability and more. It’s about making every voice heard and creating safe, inclusive spaces for all.

Not convinced? Here are 50 reasons why International Women’s Day should be just as much about fighting all forms of oppression as it is about celebrating all self-identifying women. Now we have the next 364 days to work towards ensuring that some of this stuff never happens again.

1. Because women aren’t safe online and Canadian laws don’t yet protect people from cyber-harassment.

2. Because Canada’s courts repeatedly fail sexual assault survivors.

3. Because of everything to do with the Jian Ghomeshi trial.

4. Because most survivors of sexual assault and rape don’t feel comfortable reporting it.

5. Because Bill Cosby.

6. And Terry Richardson.

7. And James Deen.

8. Because rape culture is thriving on university campuses and most Canadian schools lack adequate sexual assault policies.

9. Because a white Toronto city councillor felt threatened enough by Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, which contained Black Panther imagery, that he wanted her banned from entering Canada.

10. Because a Canadian man created a revenge website to “destroy” his ex-wife and she can’t get it taken down.

11. Because a BuzzFeed writer was harassed off Twitter after putting out a (completely legal and legitimate) call for freelancers who “aren’t white or male.”

12. Because Canadian fashion designers think they can get away with using #DSquaw to promote a clothing line.

13. Because Canada’s prostitution laws continue to fail sex workers, especially migrant sex workers.

14. Because it took an online petition to convince Amazon.ca to pull convicted serial killer Robert Pickton’s memoir from its listings.

15. Because casting non-white actors in the lead roles of a classic Canadian play is still an anomaly.

16. Because #OscarsSoWhite.

17. Because during an Oscars broadcast that was all about diversity – or lack thereof – comedians thought it was okay to crack a few crude Asian jokes.

18. Because when a Canadian mayor wore the same suit to work for over a year, no one noticed or gave a damn. But just try to pull the same stunt as a woman.

19. Because Toronto police target racialized residents, conducting immigration “status checks” on whoever they damn well please.

20. Because NOW’s cover story on racism in Toronto’s music scene was met with comments claiming meritocracy, reverse racism and hate – so much hate.

21. Because a 13-year-old black student at a Toronto middle school was told by her principal that her afro was unacceptable.

22. Because Muslims – especially Muslim women – were the victims of a string of hate crimes in Canada following the terror attacks in Paris, France.

23. Because some Muslim women in Toronto were compelled to take self-defence classes in order to protect themselves from these hate crimes.

24. Because welfare discrimination exists and hurts women and children most.

25. Because it took this long for a Canadian prime minister to form a gender-balanced cabinet.

26. Because we're just initiating a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

27. Because only after a homeless woman was sexually assaulted twice in one night did Toronto finally open two 24-hour drop-in centres for women.

28. Because choosing to love your body is still seen as subversive.

29. Because the statement, “trans women are women” is still met with resistance.

30. Because queer black couples aren’t typically visible in the media.

31. Because Facebook can’t handle a woman’s body.

32. Because a Toronto company thought it was okay to state that “female candidates are preferred” in a job ad for a receptionist position.

33. Because many restaurants across Canada still require female servers to wear revealing uniforms on the job.

34. Because women can't be part of changing the laws if the system employing female lawyers is broken.

35. Because this year's Juno Award nominees are so predominantly white and male.

36. Because a group of Syrian refugees that included women and children were attacked outside a welcome event in Vancouver, proving that anti-immigration sentiment is alive in Canada, too.

37. Because even though abortion is legal in Canada, not all provinces provide access to it.

38. Because at least two popular Toronto restaurants decided it was ok to make transphobic jokesabout Caitlyn Jenner.

39. Because authentic lesbian stories on screen are still considered new.

40. Because in Ontario, a female worker earns 74 cents for every $1 earned by a male worker.

41. And across Canada, that wage gap is even bigger.

42. Because white students unions, men’s rights groups and anti-choice groups still try to organize on Toronto university campuses.

43. Because American “pick-up artist” Roosh V, who advocates for legal rape, tried to organize a meet-up in Toronto.

44. Because Canadian media is still really bad at talking about sexual violence.

45. Because it took two Toronto students to get rape culture and consent added to the Ontario health curriculum for high schools.

46. Because sexism is alive and well in Canadian newsrooms.

47. Because female comedians still get told, “Women aren’t funny.”

48. Because the war on female voices still criticizes women for speaking with up-talk and vocal fry.

49. Because there are more women than ever learning tech, science and engineering, and yet companies still can’t be bothered to hire them.

50. Because affordable and accessible childcare in Canada is still a pipe dream.

michelled@nowtoronto.com | @michdas