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Happy International Women's Day

  • 15 March 2023
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  Wednesday (8 March) was International Women’s Day and the covens of the matriarchy got together to celebrate over high tea and champagne their achievements and discuss whether it was finally time to share some of their power . . .

Whoops, sorry. What I meant to say was Wednesday was International Women’s Day and the headlines from around the world included things such as: ‘Women earn $1m less than men over lifetime’, ‘[Woman] condemns social media abuse’, Female students barred from university in Afghanistan, ‘Iran investigates poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls with toxic gas’ (which is thought to be a deliberate attempt to force their schools to shut).

Yes, lives and opportunities have improved for women all over the world, but it’s not a smooth upward trajectory and every so often you get headlines that make you feel you have been thrust into the middle of The Handmaid’s Tale. [Thinking of the TV series that brought Margaret Atwood’s novel of a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship to vivid life.] It is the denial of education that prompts the comparison most closely, because in Atwood’s world of Gilead, the act of reading is denied women.

It is almost impossible to think of reading as a subversive act, but subversive it is. Reading opens the mind to different worlds, to ideas, to comparisons, to knowledge . . . Reading different points of view is the basis for critical thinking. That is, we are asked to make judgments such as, ‘on the balance of probabilities what’s true?; how do I think about this?; how does it fit into my world view?; does it change my thinking?

This year, the UN theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Innovation and technology for gender equality’. Pertinent, given the need for women to access access education globally. But it's worth remembering the most important innovation and technology to make any inroads in gender equality is literacy. 

Any doubts about the power of reading or of education, should be put to rest by the effort expended by many authorities to either keep it to select groups or dictate who should learn what. Throughout history those in charge know that by controlling the media they control what people think. [A recent example is the stories from Russian occupied Ukrainian territory where Russian texts became mandatory.]

Education gives us the language to