Counting our blessings, but especially looking ahead at the work that still needs to be done

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 8, 2010

I wrote “a year ago”: that it was the 100th International Women’s day, but looking at the status updates of my Facebook Friends that special birthday seems to be today. Never mind! The “BBC”: has a short documentary reporting on a UN conference reviewing what has been accomplished since the 1995 Beijing conference. The UN reports on all the progress that has been made; the activists rather note all that hasn’t been achieved yet.
Interestingly enough, that is precisely the pattern we see in debates in rich countries too: yes, there has been progress, but no, we haven’t reached a gender just world yet. In “a debate”: on recent Dutch policy initiatives to facilitate employment for parents (an issue many more women than men struggle with), which I attended in Amsterdam on Saturday, Mariette Hamer, a leading labour party politician said the same: feminists should count their blessings, and not just focus on what hasn’t been achieved, but also note all the positive changes.
I guess it’s good to focus on change and keep a positive attitude, but in some areas of feminist concern, the change has been painstakingly slow. I’m not going to elaborate on examples here, but rather invite you to ponder on what you think has been an area in which progress has been too slow, or perhaps even negative. In any case, I don’t think there is any reason yet to stop ‘celebrating’ International Women’s Day. There is still way to go.



Nicholas Whyte 03.08.10 at 8:29 pm

If last year was the 100th International Women’s day, this year is the hundredth anniversary of the first one!


Ingrid Robeyns 03.08.10 at 8:42 pm



JLR 03.08.10 at 9:15 pm

Other way around, actually.

But the only way that this is the 100th International Women’s Day is if they are counting from 1911 and not 1909. Unless they took a couple of years off at some point.


Christine Straehle 03.08.10 at 11:31 pm

Great entry. Here is my two cents worth. Maybe counting blessings is something we should do. However, counting blessings is also something that I haven’t heard many men be asked to do when it comes to concerns of their own. And it seems that counting blessings, as you say, might also simply be a luxury of rich nations. So onward and upward – no point in celebrating half-baked achievements.


Dean 03.09.10 at 12:51 am

In some circles this could be called sexist


J. Otto Pohl 03.09.10 at 12:37 pm

In the post-socialist countries International Woman’s Day is celebrated as a giant commercial enterprise akin to Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day together on steroids. One thing that is apparent here in Kyrgyzstan is that the existence of the holiday is seen as a reason not to make progress on gender issues. For instance people here will often remark how horrible women in the US must have it because there is no official holiday on International Woman’s Day. While in contrast they have a holiday so there is no need for any effort to create more gender equality in day to day life here. I suspect that a similar attitude exists in other former Soviet republics.


Isn't really progress 03.09.10 at 6:15 pm

I was one of the first members of NOW in Oregon.

Then women made 67 percent of what men made with the qualifications. Now it is up to 77 percent. Wow, progress.

Me and NOW parted company when I was at a convention and sat down at the front. When I turned around and counted heads, less than 10 women were not white. “I got mine, fuck you won.”


a.y. mous 03.10.10 at 10:10 am

Don’t forget, a big move ahead is already made. A larger hurdle looms in the lower house, but with the ruling coalition having such strong numbers, that is not insurmountable. This is huge. Both in its symbolism and its impact. For the good or bad, I’ll leave it to the twisted timbers to tie the knots.


Anca Gheaus 03.10.10 at 4:43 pm

When thinking in which arenas progress has been too slow, or perhaps negative: it depends so much where you look. In my own country, Romania, 20 years ago there was virtually no feminism – either academic, or grass-roots; nor was there any anti-feminism. Now there are a very few people who self-identify as feminists but there is also widespread anti-feminism – in the academia, in politics, in mass-media and in public opinion. Now, is this slow progress, is this negative progress – I don’t know.

Comments on this entry are closed.