Monday, March 8, 2010

Blog for International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day! Gender Across Borders is organizing a massive blog effort - the theme is "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity," and today, I'm thinking about the Oscars.

Yesterday, Kathryn Bigelow became the first women to win the Academy Award for best director for her work with The Hurt Locker - an important achievement in a field almost completely dominated by men.

Throughout the Oscars, despite this milestone and shattering of another glass ceiling, I couldn't help but see inequality all night. I'm in a class called "Fashion and Feminism: The Politics of Dress" this semester, and I was particularly interested in the fashion throughout the evening. Of course, this is nothing new - the men wear basically identical tuxes (although very expensive and designer-made, of course) while the women strut around in the craziest contraptions. But I kept noticing women having trouble going up and down the stairs on the stage - some women even needed assistance, assumedly because their dresses were too constricting or revealing. Kathryn Bigelow was clutching her chest when she won best picture - I was afraid she would faint (although perhaps it wasn't because of her tight dress, I probably would've fainted had i just won Best Director and Best Picture, back to back). Either way, I was fascinated by this slight juxtaposition.
While women have come a long way, and now a female has won best director, how many female directors can you name? Does this equalizing force mean that women have equal opportunity in this field? Just something to think about.

Changing gears entirely, International Women's Day is a day to recognize women and celebrate women's rights, as well as recognize change and progress worldwide. On the global stage, Kathryn Bigelow's win is meaningful, but there are slightly more pressing matters. Planned Parenthood has been committed to investing in girls and women globally for more than 40 years. In terms of reproductive health, we still have a long way to go. While contraception usage has increased, more women are attending school for longer, and more women are in governments than ever, there are still glaring issues. Over 200 million women who wan't to use contraception don't have access it, and every year, half a million women die from pregnancy-related causes, and 20 million have unsafe abortions. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is working within the federal government, and overseas to help with this epidemic.

I'm in the middle of reading Michelle Goldberg's new book, "The Means of Reproduction: Sex power, and the Future of the World," which addresses these issues head on. I think when we talk about reproductive health and equality, we lose sight of what this looks like from an international point of view, and Goldberg puts a persuasive, urgent lens on the idea of reproductive rights. I recommend it, and maybe I'll make a more cohesive blog post about it in a few weeks (spring break can't come soon enough!). For now though, let's celebrate all the gains women have made internationally, while not losing sight of all the work ahead of us. Happy International Women's Day!

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