International women’s day is internationally observed on the 8th of March every year, representing a focal point for women’s rights and is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. However, this year’s celebrations were highly anticipated as they coincided with national careers week. So, there was lots of excitement in the air as Naomi Ackie (who plays warrior Jannah in the latest Star Wars film) paid us a visit where she had the chance to reminisce about her school-days with her former teachers and concluded the careers week by delivering an inspiring talk on acting and the media. Additionally, our school also hosted a film crew tasked with making a short film about Naomi. This year’s theme was Each for Equal which highlights the importance of collectively working together to help create a gender equal world.

As a girl’s school, celebrating international Women’s Day at our school is crucial for encouraging students to feel confident and empowered enough to tackle issues such as gender inequality, pay discrepancy, objectification of women and to challenge stereotypes. The day was marked with an impressive program of events, that encouraged students, faculty and guests from across the school to be #EachforEqual. We proudly donned our green and violet ribbons created by year 7s and attended an assembly which charted the history of the event.

The year 7 students dressed up as an inspirational woman and wrote short stories which were later displayed. Year 8’s designed a page of a celebratory calendar and ten guests from a range of lines of work (some of which were former students) volunteered to participate in an activity called “What’s My Line” where our year 9 students attempted to guess their occupations. In the afternoon, the annual Year 10 quiz was held with questions for a variety of topics such as women in sport and literature. The day ended with a talk for our Year 11 students from Victoria Tzortziou-Brown, Joint Honorary Secretary for the Royal College of General Practitioners, who spoke on her personal journey, sharing life lessons and advice, as well as demystifying the NHS and health sector outlining the future and opportunities available in the sector. Many activities outside of lessons were also organised such as our annual logo competition, French poems and several trips such as the Women of the World festival (attended by two budding journalists for our school’s diversity magazine) and a trip to the ASGS student leadership conference. As the future generation of leaders, it was truly inspiring and made me feel more united and empowered as a woman.

However, with huge strides of progress within our society, this raises the question on whether there is still a need to strive for equality- but the truth is we do. In a gender study recently conducted by the UN, it was reported that at least 90% of men and women held some sort of prejudice or bias against women. Moreover, according to the UN figures not one single country has achieved gender parity as women continue to face struggles from seeing their basic right recognised to gaining leadership roles in corporate boardrooms. Unfortunately, feminism has become synonymous with “man hating”. With feminism straying from its original definition, it’s become surrounded with lots of stigma. So much so that even women themselves are not choosing to identify as feminists.

What started as a noble cause has quickly devolved into toxicity. The #MeToo is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault of women. Undoubtedly, the impact of the movement has been positive in reducing levels of sexual harassment, changing the way workers interact with each other in the office and ways organisations handle sexual harassment training and allegations of misconduct. Though it has worryingly become a tool to intimidate and demonise men by presenting them as brutish and oppressive while presenting women as victims. In a Harvard Business Review article on “The #MeToo Backlash” published the results of a survey conducted in 2019 found that 19% of men said they were reluctant to hire attractive women, 58% of men predicted that men would have greater fears of being unfairly accused and 27% said they avoided one-on-one meetings with female colleagues. This increased reluctance of engaging with women at work is reversing all the progresses that have been made.

Furthermore, the movement has almost allowed the assumption that all men who are accused of rape are guilty and all women telling them are telling the truth. As a result, in addition to the female victims of real rape and assault there is now an increasing number in male victims of women’s false allegations, an injustice which has not only destroyed these men’s lives and but has also undermined the measures needed to deal with real rape. For example, Oliver Mears an Oxford student was cleared of rape after spending two years on bail and Liam Allan a criminology student accused of rape, police had failed to disclose texts that proved his innocence. This idea of women victimhood presents women as helpless, incapable of standing up for themselves, but isn’t this what feminism is meant to be fighting against? Could this be described as an abuse of power?

When questioned on her opinion on modern feminism Eloise Long, 14 said “The whole feminist ideology has been twisted and shifted from empowering everyday women to apparently taking down men which is not true. The #MeToo has gained the reputation of just a way to make men lose their jobs due to celebrities being wrongly accused. However, the whole purpose of the movement was about giving everyday women a voice not about celebrity scandals.”

Malika Hanif, 15 said “I think that gender equality has improved tremendously but I’m afraid that due to malicious radical feminism causing a lot of misunderstandings and the shifting of what it means to be a feminist, we might never have full equality.”

Though there has never been a better time to be a woman with increasing opportunities and freedoms, there is still much to do.