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Friday 8th March is International Women’s Day, and the focus this year is on building a gender-balanced world, with the hashtag #BalanceForBetter. The University’s Institute of Gender Studies is joining forces with the Diversity Festival to host a day of thinking about ‘Everyday Feminism vs Everyday Sexism’, including a talk from Chester Women’s Aid board member Chiara Lisowski. The celebrations continue on Tuesday 12th March in a sold-out event where the best-selling author and campaigner, Laura Bates, founder of the internationally-acclaimed The Everyday Sexism Project, will be in conversation with Professor Emma Rees, Director of our very own Institute of Gender Studies.

Two of the current MRes in Gender Studies cohort, Sarah Kissack and Sam Sutton, strike the #BalanceForBetter pose, and reflect here on what International Women’s Day means to them.

Sam Sutton:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them” - Margaret Atwood

Women’s daily routines should not include hints and tips on how not to be sexually assaulted. Keys should not be clenched in the hands of women who decide to walk in the dark. My mother should not have had to issue me with a rape alarm when I turned eighteen, as if it was a rite of passage. Those dimly-lit alleyways that I am warned against should be safe. Women should be safe against sexual assault. I should be safe.

Despite the societal focus on women protecting themselves from strangers, the Office of National Statistics states that only “one-seventh of female victims reported their attacker being a stranger”. 45% of victims reported their attacker to be a partner or former partner, and yet the domestic nature of rape is not recognised.

International Women’s Day allows women to find sanctuary in community: a place where women’s achievements are celebrated and, perhaps more significantly, a place where their struggles are recognised.

On International Women’s Day, if I walk in the dark, my thoughts will be focused on the words of strong women.


Sarah Kissack:

When I tell people I study Gender Studies at university, most reactions are positive. Some people are intrigued, but one reaction that really took me by surprise was: “That sounds depressing”.

It’s not depressing at all. While sometimes it’s frustrating to really focus and unpick the depth of gender inequality, it’s mostly encouraging. While we are a long way off where we need to be, there are people everywhere trying – with every fibre of their existence – to fight the different inequalities that women around the world face every second of every day.

It is “depressing” that highly intelligent women such as Diane Abbott, the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons, receive rape and death threats every single day.

It is frustrating that some people insist that the gender pay gap isn’t real, yet the numbers are out there: men in the UK earn, on average, 9% more than women.

It doesn’t make sense that a woman in the UK should spend an average of over £18,000 on their periods over a lifetime. The Independent newspaper estimates that 137,700 British girls missed school in 2017 because they couldn’t afford sanitary products.

What really angers me is that, according to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 3 women globally will experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

This matters because it’s one out of every three women you pass on the street.

It’s one in every three of your female lecturers, doctors, bus drivers.

It’s a third of your female friends.

It’s your sisters, your daughters, and your mothers.

It’s you.

It’s me.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. International Women’s day matters because it shouldn’t be like this.


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