What you need to know
'A woman is not defined by society, a woman is as equal as any other gender, and that’s what it’s all about.'
The Women's March is a worldwide protest which began in Washington DC on Jan. 21, 2017, to advocate legislation and policies regarding basic human rights, but particularly women's rights and LGBTQ rights.
The initial protest directly targeted newly established U.S. President Donald Trump due to the many offensive remarks and actions he had taken towards women and the LGBTQ community. The march led to multiple rallies taking place around the U.S. and the world and was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, attracting millions of participants across its various locations.
According to organizers, the protest was meant to "send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights."
On March 8, Taiwan is hosting our own Women's March to correspond with the worldwide protest for women's rights. When it comes to fighting for women's rights, the event calls us to consider, what makes a woman? Are women defined by society? And is this definition fair to women?
Established on Dec. 2, 2017, WARM (Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally), a mental health support group for women in Taiwan, has witnessed firsthand the pressure and oppression women face in Taiwan.
The most common issue that comes up in WARM's meetings is rape.
Whenever a woman shares a story about her rape, every single time, without fail, another woman says, "me too". Society tells women to avoid being raped; that we need to cover ourselves up to protect ourselves; we need to be careful in a bar, so no one adds anything to our drinks; we need to be careful when we are in a taxi; we need to text our friends if we are safely home.
Men do not freak out when they are alone with another man in an elevator or worry about the person walking behind them late at night or on lonely, quiet streets.
Women must be vigilant when they walk past a group of men alone, yet men do not feel compelled to do the same when walking past a group of women.
We live in a society that blames women when bad things happen and asks them to take responsibility. We tell women not to be raped, but we rarely tell men not to rape women. We tell women they have to constantly conform to societal norms, but boys can just be boys. We teach men to speak out, and women to absorb.
Another issue that is often brought up is body image. There are so many women who come to WARM that suffer from eating disorders. When a fat girl eats an ice cream, people say "that's why she's so fat". When she does not eat, they ask, "why is she so fat?"
The same happens to skinny girls: when she's eating, men ask, "where did you hide that burger?" When she is not eating, people assume she's on a diet. This culture makes women self-conscious about what they are eating, how they are eating and where they are eating.
The same societal pressure applies to a woman's figure. When a woman is skinny, men complain that they have no curves; when a woman is fat, men complain they are too big. There are too many women who only feel pretty when they are hungry. All these mindsets are deep rooted in women's minds since time immemorial.
The same predicament extends to how women dress. If they are showing too much flesh, then they are “asking for it”; if they wear too much, then they are a prude. If they wear too much make up, they must be insecure about themselves; when they don’t wear makeup, they are either lazy or don’t care about their appearance.
It seems like there is no right way to be a woman. These phenomena indicate the mentality that women’s bodies are for men to own. This is why the Women’s March Taiwan and the WARM meetings are so important – we are telling society that we are reclaiming control, that we belong to ourselves.
We live in a society that hates women. This is not just aimed at men, women do it without noticing, too. Patriarchy has been planted in our minds for centuries. This is best explained in the Heidi / Howard study. Heidi Roizen was a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist who was the subject of a case study at Columbia Business School.
Professor Frank Flynn presented half his class with a case study with Heidi's name on it and gave half the class the same case study with her name changed to "Howard". The students rated Howard and Heidi equally competent, but liked Howard more than Heidi. Specifically, students felt Heidi was significantly less likable and worthy of being hired than Howard and perceived her as more “selfish”.
Another example is that the worst things you can call a woman are probably “slut” or “whore”, which at the same time insinuates that women don’t own their sexuality. Nonetheless, the worst things you can call a man are “pussy”, “girl” or “fag”, which implies the entire gender of women, their reproductive organs and homosexuals are an insult in themselves.
Let’s come back to the question raised at the beginning: “What makes a woman?” The answer? Anything. A woman is whatever she wants to be. A woman is not defined by society, a woman is as equal as any other gender – that’s what it’s all about. As the organizer of 2017’s Women’s March said, echoing many feminists before her: “Women’s rights are human rights”.
We are all human beings. We all deserve fundamental rights. We should all be treated equally, and gender should not be part of the equation when it comes to human rights.
This is something we have to work on, which is why it is so important for men and women to come out and march.
“Look back, march forward” is the slogan for Women's March Taiwan – together we can march towards a better society.
The Women's March Taiwan begins at 4.30 pm at CKS Memorial Hall, Taipei City, Taiwan. More details can be found here .
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Editor: David Green