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Will this year's Women's Day be as controversial as the last?

3rd February 2011

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International Women’s Day is an annual event which takes place on 8th March to celebrate women’s economic, social and political achievements. Governments, organisations and women’s groups throughout the world choose their own unique theme, which can reflect global or local female concerns.

This year, the Women’s Day theme at the University of Southampton is Strong Body, Strong Mind, Strong Women. The theme was chosen by the University’s Women’s Officer, Emily Eldridge, who calls it a ‘fantastic theme’.

She said: ‘The theme Strong body, Strong mind, Strong women sums up my views of the modern women and is an important message to send to female students to be healthy, whilst confidently meet challenges in their future careers and be proud of who they are.’

Plans for the event, which will take place on the University’s main campus, are still underway, but will include stalls, fitness activities and a debate. There will be a marathon run on treadmills as part of the AU President’s ‘Fit and Fabulous’ campaign, which aims to get more women into sport.

There will also be a stall on human trafficking and a debate with one house arguing a case along of the lines of ‘this house believes that female strippers are sexually liberating’.

Southampton University Student’s Union will need to ensure that they publicise the event effectively, not only to encourage female students to partake in the day’s celebration, but to avoid rousing the kind of controversy that was caused by last year’s Women’s Day poster.

Many students were appalled and angry about last year’s advertising, which featured several bikini clad models, arguing that it was offensive to women in suggesting that they must adhere to the ‘perfect female body’ stereotype, whilst ignoring the proud history of Women’s Day.

The University’s Women’s Officer is aware of the need for suitable advertising, commenting, ’I hope to publicise the event with positive, non-offensive, advertising.’

President of the University’s Feminist Society, Chloe Green, however, is not as sure. She said: ‘I think that the Women's Day theme is a valid one, if a little irrelevant. I worry that people will forget the main purpose of the day, which is to celebrate female achievement and the struggles that we have had and are still continuing to face. The 'Fit and Fabulous' seems rather superfluous and doesn't really cater to the objectives of the day.

‘Having said that, it makes feminism and female celebration accessible to those who may not have a prior interest and, if it can succeed in publicising the day as a positive one for students, then why not.’

The University of Southampton’s chosen theme for 2011 will hopefully encourage many female students to get involved with the day’s activities to celebrate both the historical and current achievements of women. 

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