Plaid Ifanc’s Women’s Officer, Angharad Lewis, shares her thoughts on International Women’s Day 2017.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BeBoldforChange. We’ll need to be more bold than ever if we’re to get closer to a world in which women are free from gender-based oppression.
Recently it’s felt like we’re going backwards. The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States, despite his on-camera boasts of sexual assault and long history of creepy objectification of the women around him, emboldens those who share his views. It’s no surprise that he’s appointed a cabinet that’s more white and male than any US president since Reagan. Within days of being in office he signed an executive order that stops any organisation that offers information about abortion receiving federal money. This defunding of reproductive health organisations around the world will make it harder for women to access the services they need. Women will die as a result.
In the European Parliament, Socialist MEP Iratxe Garcia Perez was forced to argue against the claims of Polish far-right MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke who said that women must earn less than men because they are ‘weaker, smaller, and less intelligent.’ It feels so frustrating that in 2017, women are still having to fight for the most basic level of respect.
In the UK, we may have a female Prime Minister, but her cabinet is not yet gender balanced and, despite some positive rhetoric, there’s been a lack of substantive action to tackle issues like the pay gap. Besides, our Foreign Secretary and representative to the world is Boris Johnson, a buffoon who’s joked that women only go to university to find a man to marry.
In this context of a rising tide of sexism and misogyny in the public sphere, it is more important than ever for Wales’ national movement to carve out our own distinct path. Plaid Cymru must be better than our political opponents. Principles of equality and justice must remain at the heart of our campaigning. A political movement cannot be truly transformative unless it is committed to ending gender-based oppression.
At a time when our nation faces an existential threat, it is easy for gender equality to be overshadowed. Brexit threatens our devolution settlement, our economy, and our national identity. When we are preoccupied with defending Wales from being subsumed into a Frankenstein’s monster ‘WalesandEngland’, how can we still make space for fighting for a more equal Wales?
Ultimately, it comes down to one question. Would I want a free Wales that is run by men and replicates the same systems of oppression? I don’t think there’d be a point.
If our nationalism isn’t feminist, it’s worthless.
The journey ahead for progressives can look like it’s all uphill. We are going to have to deal with a rising tide of intolerance, British nationalism and an apparent growing acceptance of misogyny in politics. And we’ll also have fight to ensure that space is made for women’s participation in our own movement.
Yet we can take inspiration and strength on International Women’s Day from knowing that around the world, women are coming together to make our voices heard. Together we can be bold.