Today is also a day to reflect on a plain, undeniable fact: women and men are still not equals. Despite centuries of toil, there is still economic and social disparity, and still a culture of misogyny and sexism.
Women are, on average, paid less than men, often for doing the same job. They face a much greater challenge than men if they wish to have a successful working and family life. Women the world over are the victims of domestic and sexual abuse and harassment, from men they know and men they do not. They are told by a corporate media that the key to happiness is fitting into a size zero dress and having a handsome, preferably wealthy husband. They are judged and deemed immoral by many for embracing their sexuality, and are called murderers if they try to take control of their own bodies. Things are stacked against them when it comes to breaking into the male dominated worlds of work, such as business and politics, to name but two. To some, women are not people. They are objects.
Why is it, after everything women have done and are still doing, after all the progress throughout the years, after they have proved categorically that sexist stereotypes are just that, why are women still not regarded and treated as equals in this world?
There is no single, simple answer to that question, but I believe it has a lot to do with the people's mindset. We may now pride ourselves on being progressive, as being as a society where women are not just expected to stay at home, cooking, cleaning and looking after husband and children. But make no mistake, those sentiments are persistent. Just consider the casual misogyny of pluralist, modern Britain. It is an outrage, and one that shocks me on a daily basis, that sexism is not considered to be as serious and repugnant a form of discrimination as racism.
Indeed, sexist gags are the all the rage up and down the land, and the chauvinistic slurs of media personalities when they think their microphones have been turned off, are simply indications of a much wider epidemic. Ah, but it's 'banter', I am told. It's 'just a joke'. Just a joke? Is it just a joke when women are afraid to walk the streets alone at night? Is it just a joke when women are killed and raped by men everyday? Is it just a joke when a woman is physically attacked by her partner? Hilarious stuff, eh?
It is an unspeakably infuriating truth that we live in a world void of gender equality. Great progress has been made and so much achieved by so many, but we haven't won yet. Feminism's work is not done. One day, maybe, we will be able to say that women - economically, politically socially - are equals to men. But until that day, until sexism becomes an embarrasing relic of a bygone age, until women the world over are free from oppression, until we can write the words 'Here lies patriarchy' on a headstone and be done with it, until then, we must strive on. So whatever you do today, take a moment to remember the immense achievements of women, and the immense challenges they face. And don't despair, there is hope yet for a better world.
An Extract from "A Doll's House", a play by the 19th Century playwright, Henrik Ibsen:
Nora: What do you consider my most sacred duties?
Torvald: Do I need to tell you that? Are they not your duties to me your husband and your children?
Nora: I believe I have other duties.
Torvald: That you have not. What duties could those be?
Nora: Duties to myself.
Torvald: Before all else you are a wife and mother.
Nora: I don't believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a human being.