Saturday 8th March, 2014 is International Women’s Day (IWD). This is a day where people throughout the world come together to celebrate the political, economic and social achievements of women and to highlight the ongoing inequality, discrimination and violence faced by women of all types because of their gender.
International Women’s Day was first held in 1911 as a follow-up for the first International Women’s Conference that was held in 1910 in Copenhagen. The first IWD was organized by German activist, politician and women’s rights defender, Clara Zetkin, who was also a founding member of the Spartacus League, which would later become the German Communist Party. Whilst Women’s Day was originally an initiative by Denmark and Germany, it was soon celebrated in various countries across the world.
Many of the same inequalities faced by women in 1910 are still apparent today. It is clear there is a link between sexism and LGBTQ-phobia. LGBTQ-phobia seems to be based largely on society’s fixation on a binary gender set and heterosexist attitudes. IGLYO wants to encourage all LGBTQ youth to stand up to sexism as well as LGBTQ-phobia. Ideas of masculinity and femininity are rigid in society, but LGBTQ youth today have an opportunity to challenge sexism in all its forms.
Gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, trans, queer and intersex people often experience forms of phobia that are linked to sexism. For example, the stereotype that gay men are all effeminate exists and the fact that some of them “are” effeminate is seen as a negative or bad thing. This is because in the eyes of mainstream society, by being attracted to other men, gay men take on the role of women. This sexist idea that the only role of women is to be attracted to men within our society has been transferred onto gay men and as they don’t fit the masculine role of being attracted to women, they are not accepted within society.
The same can be said of lesbian women, who, by being attracted to other women, are taking on a perceived masculine role and, as such, may be reduced to nothing but women who want to be men. This further exacerbates the lived experiences of people who have trans or intersex identities, because society prefers to restrict gender identity and expression to the binary set of female/ feminine and male/masculine; and by being outside this strict binary set, we are not free to express our gender any way we wish. Sexism affects us all in the same way, and gender identity, sexual orientation and the expression of both should be free.
As International Women’s Day celebrates its 103rd year, IGLYO encourages its members to get out there and celebrate women, continue to tackle gender norms and promote a norm critical approach. Regardless of how you identify, International Women’s Day is a day for all to come together, celebrate, activate and aggravate. As LGBTQ youth, we can join together with other movements, such as the feminist movement, to combat sexism and LGBTQ- phobia together. Anyone can be a feminist as feminism simply calls for gender equality and liberation.
In 2014, IGLYO will be organising a conference and round-table on intersectionality which will both include work on sexism.
IGLYO is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation. Orlaith Hendron is IGLYO Communications Officer -firstname.lastname@example.org