The Socialist Party of America organised an event which gave birth to International Women’s Day. It was celebrated for the first time in 1911 in Europe, attended by over a million people on 8 March. The day fell in February by the Julian calendar then used in Russia, where during the 1917 revolution, women in […]

The Socialist Party of America organised an event which gave birth to International Women’s Day. It was celebrated for the first time in 1911 in Europe, attended by over a million people on 8 March. The day fell in February by the Julian calendar then used in Russia, where during the 1917 revolution, women in Saint Petersburg went on strike for ‘Bread and Peace’. Leon Trotsky wrote, “We did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution.” The rest is history.

But what about now, in the 21st century? A US pressure group called International Women’s Day, with sponsorship from a gang of cash-rich corporations from BP to Pepsi, is issuing a 2017 ‘call to action for accelerating gender parity’. So sexism’s being sorted out by capitalists, and we’ll have full gender equality by 2030 according to the United Nations agenda.

No, not really. We know there’s still widespread, horrifying violence directed specifically against women. The World Health Organisation estimates about one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Rape is used as a weapon of war in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nearer to home, atrocities like ‘revenge porn’ have appeared. 91% of women hate their bodies, according to Taryn Brumfitt’s film Embrace, which had its Sheffield premiere recently. Women do most of the world’s work, but control little of the money and power.

So what’s going wrong? Where’s feminism now? There are nearly four billion women in the world, and neither clever slogans nor well-heeled pressure groups are going to instantly reverse generations of patriarchal inequality. Sharing, this simple thing, is vitally important. Women (and men) talking over their experiences and views is surely the starting point for change, personal and political – and that includes us, here in Sheffield.

Next month our city will experience a whole load of what matters in women’s lives. It all kicks off with SheFest (around International Women’s Day, 6-12 March), which helps to develop diverse engagement in empowering events, art, networks and opportunities. The festival is run by a not-for-profit social enterprise which, in coordination with groups across the city, celebrates and promotes gender equality. This year’s events will be based around the ever-changing art space at 35 Chapel Walk. They include Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and an International Women’s Fashion show, featuring traditional clothing and women of all shapes, sizes, cultures and ages.

This will be joined by Let’s Talk About Sex, a season of events running at Theatre Delicatessen on The Moor until the end of March. We all suffer from damaging silences and misinformation about sex, stigmatisation, violation or simply confusion. Theatre, used as a space to start conversations, can break open the borders about sex, human bodies and gender. Sarah Sharp, producer and programmer, is bringing together artists, poets, performers, film and music. They’ll also work in partnership with young people, local schools, colleges, universities and sexual health organisations. It opens with Alphabet, a critical look at pornography and toxic masculinity by Joe Bunce and Billy Taylor, also featuring Holly Gallagher’s Before (The Line is Lost). Female masturbation is given musical treatment in Buzz: A New Musical, before a burlesque finale. Details of both festivals are on the website links below.

Women’s equality isn’t just for 8 March, and it’s more than a theme for memes. Don’t just read the headlines and move on. It matters to everyone, regardless of gender, and it needs dealing with. Let’s talk about sexism every day. Let’s demand full equality.

shefest.wordpress.com
theatredelicatessen.co.uk
alt-sheff.org
 

NO TEMPLATE
Wed 15 Feb | 6pm | Showroom Cinema

The Showroom offers three films for LGBT History Month 2017, including this two-hour programme of shorts and discussion with a panel of speakers.
showroomworkstation.org.uk/no-template

LETTERS TO WINDSOR HOUSE
Fri 24 Feb | 7:45pm | Studio Theatre

Sh!t Theatre are two angry, creative women who make excellent theatre. Here they take a dig at dodgy landlords and the effects of the housing crisis.
sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/letters-to-windsor-house
 

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