International Women's Day seemed to be taken over by virtue-signalling men - Jayne Dowle

I’ll be celebrating International Women's Day today. And every day for the rest of the year. I didn’t bother last Wednesday, March 8, the official date. This year more than ever, the event seemed to be taken over by virtue-signalling men.On one of my professional social media networks, a hapless (female) PR started pushing a client, a thirtysomething bloke who apparently did podcasts ‘empowering’ women, for interview.

She was brave. The reaction, from a group of self-employed female journalists, who regularly find themselves competing for work with men, was predictably fierce. I don’t know if Mr Empowering Podcasts got any publicity in the end.

Whilst Camilla, Queen Consort, welcomed an impressive group of women, including Happy Valley’s BAFTA award-winning actress Sarah Lancashire to Buckingham Palace for a celebratory event, in the House of Commons Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Lib Dems, thanked all 220 female MPs for their work; there are almost twice as many (430) male MPs.

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It seemed a token gesture, really, considering that according to data compiled by the House of Commons Library, women hold just 30.9 per cent of government posts. They might work hard, but they don’t get recognised for it by promotion to Cabinet rank or senior ministerial roles.

Jayne Dowle, pictured by Simon Hulme.Jayne Dowle, pictured by Simon Hulme.
Jayne Dowle, pictured by Simon Hulme.

As a measure of the high respect in which women are held in Parliament, the Minister for Women and Equalities for the Equality Hub, the Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, juggles (how wearily familiar we women are with that word) this role with three other senior positions, Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade.

I know women can multi-task, but surely the PM could have given another talented female MP the job, and the breathing space to do it effectively?

Parliamentary platitudes aside, I am always more interested to check that Labour MP Jess Phillips is still - as she has done on every ‘IWD’ since she joined the Commons - reading out the names of all the women killed in the UK in the last year where a man has been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator. This year, she got to more than 100.

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Whilst we’re praising ‘strong women’, we don’t pay nearly enough attention to those who were once alive too, but felled by a violent man.

When my 20-year-old son asked me last Wednesday if I was going to post anything on my own Facebook page praising the ‘strong women’ in my own life, I shook my head.

I told him that behind every strong woman is at least one battle she’s fought, otherwise she wouldn’t possess the strength she is recognised for.

It’s about time that women were not prevailed upon to be constantly on the defensive, always having to deal with a gender-based injustice or an attack - physical, mental, emotional or financial - perpetrated by a man.

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While ever we live in a world where more than a 100 women are killed by a man in 12 months, often by a male known to them, and where just 1.3 per cent of rape cases result in prosecution, I don’t see what we’ve got to celebrate.

Meanwhile arch misogynist Andrew Tate, 36, whose hateful TikTok content has already influenced a vulnerable generation of boys, said women must “bear responsibility” for attacks - this was in response to the #MeToo campaign. (Incidentally, he now faces a legal case in Romania).

So much goes on behind closed doors. Some 1.7m women in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics data from 2022, experienced domestic violence the previous year, with the number of recorded domestic abuse-related crimes up by 7.7 per cent.

And that’s only the crimes that came to the notice of the police.

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Not much to celebrate with balloons and banners in the suffragette colours of green, white and purple, on one allotted day of the year, is there?

There are countless organisations and voluntary groups across the UK, which do good work for women and girls, day in, day out. I would never begrudge them the opportunity to raise awareness of their presence and activities on International Women’s Day.

However, many of these too often depend on precarious funding to continue their activities, helping those at the sharp end of abuse, sexual violence and workplace discrimination. If you want to show your support, seek one out and make an ongoing donation, instead of virtue-signalling for 24 hours, then putting us back in our box.