We’ve come so far and have seen great progress over the years to help forge a gender equal world, but we still have far to go. A report from the UN in 2020 found that almost 90% of both men and women held some sort of bias against women. On international women’s day, we have this opportunity to raise important points that we should remember and implement not only today, but every other day of the year. “A challenged world is an alert world” , so let’s choose to challenge!

“For me, I #ChooseToChallenge the misconception of women being referred to as bossy rather than encouraging leaders. Some of the most powerful leaders are women. Leadership should be fostered in women and girls rather than belittled.  ‘Feminism is not about making women strong, women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength’ G.D. Anderson.”

“For me, I wish to challenge the belief that women need flattery and to be showered with compliments by men. Sure, a compliment from somebody can be flattering and give you a confidence boost, but the line must be drawn when it is used as an excuse for cat calling and sexual harassment. I once saw a headline in the media from a sexual assault trial where the judge ruled that the 17-year-old victim was “overweight” and was probably “flattered” by the attention. I stand in solidarity with all of the girls and women who have been made to feel that they should feel “grateful” for being sexually harassed. Let’s say it louder for the people in the back: sexual assault is not a compliment.”

“I #ChooseToChallenge the existing stigma around menstruation and reproductive health. Society has taught us that we must be private and somewhat secretive about this critical biological experience. Although this narrative has been challenged in recent years, there is still evidence to suggest that there’s a taboo in society regarding this discussion and that it is still not fully appreciated as the normal physiological function it is (with reference to the “controversial” tampax ad from 2020). Stigma around this conversation puts women at risk of general and mental health concerns as a result of ignorance. To put into perspective, abnormal bleeding or severe pain during menstruation is often diminished as being ‘just your period’. However, such occurrences could be indications of more serious underlying conditions such as PCOS or Endometriosis. To free this topic from stigma and promote a comfortable discussion provides women with the knowledge to correctly understand their anatomy and biological functioning. It is nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Choose to Challenge… Awareness of health issues in women! March marks the celebration of Endometriosis Awareness Month as well as International Women’s Day. Endometriosis is the abnormal growth of endometrial cells outside the uterus. Common symptoms include menstrual irregularities, chronic pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia, and infertility. Symptoms of endometriosis often affect psychological and social functioning of patients. For this reason, it is considered as a disabling condition that may significantly compromise social relationships, sexuality, and mental health. It is a condition that affects 1 in 10 women worldwide. Too often, too many women, feel reluctant to open-up about women’s health, even though so many conditions are so incredibly common. As a result, women suffer in silence with conditions that can be treated, and do not seek the help they need. According to a recent survey, female employees suffer from more health and wellbeing problems than their male colleagues. It is therefore especially important to recognize women’s health in the workplace. Health conditions such as endometriosis can have a huge impact on women, yet many people may be unaware of how debilitating it can be. And with so many more males currently occupying senior positions, supporting employees with these conditions may not make the wellbeing agenda unless championed by women. I challenge organisations to make it their mission to empower women to be more forthcoming about discussing their health – and to assure them that help is available.” 

“For this year’s international women’s day, I am choosing to challenge the slightly more hidden stereotype within the perceptions of women and pain. Although an effort is being made to change this, from an early age boys and girls are socialized through gender norms on how to respond to pain. As stereotypes predict and studies show, boys are often taught to be tough, withstand and tolerate pain whereas girls are socialised to be sensitive, and verbalize discomfort should they have any. This therefore has had a direct effect when we report pain. Research has shown that although women are more likely to seek treatment for their pain, their complaints are also more likely to be dismissed as being emotional or psychogenic. Pain clinicians and medical student are still more likely to rate female patient either have less pain or as exaggerating their pain, with men more likely to be recommended analgesics (painkillers) and women more likely to be recommended psychological treatment. While this is not the necessary treatment for most cases, it also highlights the easier access women have to mental health systems than men, which is something to note when focusing on stigma from the male perspective.

To combat these stigma, a better education for both women and men on the biases in pain perception and management is important. By becoming more aware of these stereotypes is a big step forward to being able to actively change our thought processes. Pain, regardless of the gender, is something that should be taken seriously. It appears that society takes women’s mental health more seriously than men but lack in affectively tackling their physical health, whereas this role is reversed for men. This is something I really believe should be challenged.”

“The best part about any change is that it can begin with one person at a time and that one person can be YOU. I choose to challenge the fact that women must pay for menstrual products each month. Period poverty is when those on low incomes can’t afford, or access, suitable period products. Period poverty is not just a developing country issue. Period poverty is not just a women’s issue. Period poverty is not just a homeless individual issue. Menstrual products are a non-negotiable necessity. Some people have to choose between food and menstrual products. These people don’t deserve to suffer this humiliation of being unable to stay clean. Menstrual products should be free” 

“Is she… you know…” Dismantling heteronormativity for LGBTQ women

There is a definite divide in the sexes regarding expressing ideas and opinions, with women historically being expected to adhere to a much stricter standard, and these filters don’t just stop at gender; race, sexual orientation, class, disability and access to education all contribute to how comfortable women are in expressing themselves. Research has posited that sexual identity concealment has substantial implications on global health in terms of mental and physical health, increased costs in healthcare and the diminishment of public visibility necessary for the advancement of equal rights. Studies report that many women in the LGBTQ community hide a personal relationship or alter other aspects of their personal or work lives in order to avoid instances of discrimination, even when they’re working from home (Gruberg et al, 2020; Mirza & Rooney 2018). This issue also goes beyond the workplace; in healthcare, LGBTQ women have been reported to have the poorest aftercare outcomes after a serious illness and in gaining access to health services in general due to factors such as fear of prejudice and misunderstanding, with many experiencing coercive and dismissive interactions with professionals (Jennings et at, 2019; Pollitt et al, 2019; Zeeman et al, 2019). For those of us who are part of the LGBTQ community the coming out process is incredibly nuanced, and for many it is not necessarily one big defining moment, but rather a common event that happens every time you enter a new social situation (Holley, 2017). What is needed today is the dismantling of the heteronormative lens and heterosexual expectation that society has made a baseline. Heterosexuality can no longer be the baseline, with anything else being considered ‘other’. So, on International Women’s Day 2021 where we are choosing our challenges, I encourage all LGBTQ women to congratulate yourselves on already challenging the fed societal narrative, simply by existing. We are changing the world by being and not only is that enough, it is outstanding.”

“For International Women’s Day 2021, I choose to challenge to end the silence on all forms of domestic violence.60% of domestic violence victims remain silent. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, emerging data and reports have shown that domestic violence figures have risen worldwide, particularly against women and girls. Isolation makes it harder for people to speak up. Research reveals the impact of emotional and psychological trauma, including depression, shame, anger and suicide experienced by victims of domestic violence. I choose to challenge domestic violence by adding my voice to ensure victims are seen and heard. A societal behaviour change is needed. End the silence on domestic violence as it shatters the confidence of a woman and affects her both emotionally and physically. End the silence as the impacts of domestic abuse is the leading cause of death, illness and disability for women aged under 45. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”

“International women’s day is the focal point in the movement for women’s rights. More importantly, this year is about asking everyone to choosetochallenge, inviting us all to think of ways to challenge gender norms and inequality in our society. This year, I would like to challenge everyone to practice self-compassion. In a society where social media and our own internalised social constructs have told us for years that we need to be striving for or maintaining multiple versions of our best selves at all times, whether that be in terms of health and fitness, mental health, career choices, relationships, friendships, it can be extremely overwhelming and damaging when we feel like we’re not where we’re supposed to be in life. We all feel pressure from many different angles to go to college, be successful from a young age, find a career get married, own a home and fit into social norms, only a few of the many pressures that we all feel on a day to day basis. Women especially compare themselves to those around them, and struggle with the the case of the ‘shoulds’. Saying we ‘should be’ doing something or ‘should be’ at a certain point in life, implies that we have internalised these social norms and don’t necessarily want what we think we should. We need to cast off societal pressure and live from within. Focus on what feels right for you, not what you think others expect of you or what you think you should be doing. Choose yourself. Practice self love and compassion. By recognising our own true values and desires, allows us to live a more peaceful, stress free, and overall happy and positive life from within. Happy International Women’s Day!”

“Today is a great day to be a woman. Shinning a light on powerful and inspiring women, doing great things all across the globe. Acknowledging and standing up for the challenges that women have and still are being faced with on a daily basis. Showing, not only to ourselves but, to everyone around us what we are capable of, while supporting and raising up other woman around us. Yes, it is a great day to be a woman, But isn’t every day?”

Challenge the status quo, open a conversation and spread awareness in order to promote equality for everyone across society. Further, don’t allow your female counterparts to be labelled as “dramatic” or “emotional” for simply voicing what they need to feel comfortable with their lives. On International Women’s Day, use your voice to call out inequality and injustice; if not for you, for others. #ChooseToChallenge. 

Best Wishes,

The Motus Team. 

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