Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues

Like a Girl – Yeah, So What!?

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Ali Rickart

The “Like a Girl” was a campaign started by the company, Always, as a way to boost self-confidence, equality, and empowerment.[1] The campaign began as an advertisement depicting the term “like a girl” and showing various people (men, women, boys, and girls) explain what they think the phrase means. The powerful messages shows that young girls view “like a girl” as a representing strength and equality, yet all other persons meant or understood the phrase as indicating weakness, inequality, and even as an insult. Since this campaign launched, Always has begun other campaigns such as #BanBossy, another phrase directed at girls and women that is meant as an insult, even though their male counterparts are praised as leaders when they display similar attitude and behavior. Always has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality through education around the globe.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8. This year’s theme: Make It Happen.[2] We must make greater equality happen by having more women in senior leadership roles, equal recognition of women in the arts, growth of female owned businesses, increased financial independence of women, more women in science, technology and engineering, fairer recognition of women in sports. We must make wage equality amongst the sexes a reality instead of an aspiration. Just like the company, Always, organizations and women around the world are working to make equality happen. This day is celebrated as an official national holiday such countries as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.[3] The United States dedicates the entire month of March to Women’s History. As Gloria Steinem stated, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”[4]

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Feminism, also known as the women’s liberation movement, is a movement to support the equality of women. The movement began, primarily, with legal issues such as women’s suffrage and property rights. This movement soon spread to include things like equal pay, protection against domestic violence, reproductive rights, and more. Feminist scholars have divided the feminist movement into three ‘waves’, each wave gaining momentum in the fight for equality.[5] Each wave has started in the Western World, specifically the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, before spreading across the globe. The second and third waves of feminism deal with many more social, political and legal issues than the first wave of feminism. The third wave of feminism is slightly more nuanced and refers to the inclusion of sexuality as another category involving women that is lacking in equality.[6]

One of the most prevalent tools regarding women’s rights arose out of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Convention was negotiated and adopted by the General Assembly (vote: 130 to 0, with only 10 abstentions) in 1979. Through special presentation at a world conference and subsequent fast state signing, CEDAW entered into force on September 3, 1981.[7] This was the fastest a human rights convention had ever entered into effect.[8] While CEDAW is widely ratified, it has one of the largest numbers of reservations. Although reservations are not allowed to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention, there are often conflicts between the reservations and the states own national constitutions or laws. A majority of reservations are made on grounds of potential conflict with national laws, traditions, religion or culture. Ironically, some states that are parties to CEDAW and have made reservations have not entered such reservations to corresponding provisions in other human rights treaties.

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In an effort to gain more unity between the sexes, UN Women has launched the HeForShe campaign. This campaign promotes feminism generally and is intended to bridge the gap between women and men activism for women’s rights. The campaign describes itself as “bring[ing] together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”[9] Men from all over the world have agreed to take a stand for gender equality. An interactive map on the HeForShe website shows the number of men in each country that have signed the pledge, totaling 232,188. The only states that didn’t seem to have any men that signed the pledge was French Guinea in South America and the autonomous province of Kosovo.[10] Some of the African countries such as Guinea, Lesotho, Chad, Burkina Faso, Congo, and a few others have fewer than ten men that have signed. Yet, that’s still a start.

Another important movement occurring in women’s rights is the Girl Rising movement. This movement is attempting to establish education for women around the world, as many countries either do not allow girls to attend school or may not have sufficient resources for them to attend school.[11] In 2013, the movement released a powerful film, titled “Girl Rising”, which documented the lives of nine different girls in nine different areas of the world. The movie is a powerful representation of the inequality of something that seems so open to developed countries yet so inaccessible in most of the world – education. The facts that the film brings to light are astounding, including the fact that educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.[12]

One person cannot fix the world, but as Girl Rising states, “one girl with courage is a revolution.”[13] Yet, women cannot do it alone. I challenge men to have courage and help further the momentum of the revolution by joining the HeforShe movement. Everyone should get involved to fight for both equality and the right of access to education. If we start small and work towards attainable solutions within our own country, when we ban together we can gain enough momentum that we can change the world. Let’s make it happen in 2015.

Alexandra Rickart is a second-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2016 with a concentration in International Law. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Business. Her primary interests include international law, international criminal law, and domestic criminal law.
In addition to being a CICL Fellows, she is the Secretary of the International Law Society and a Staff Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. She competed in the 2014-15 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region. During her first year of law school, she was a tutor for Baltimore elementary students as part of the Truancy Court program through the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Alexandra is currently a law clerk for a criminal defense firm in Baltimore.

[1] Like a Girl: Boost Your Self-Confidence #likeagirl, Always, http://www.always.com/en-us/likeagirl.aspx.

[2] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[3] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ (China, Madagascar, and Nepal have this national holiday for women only).

[4] About International Women’s Day, http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPyYiUKTRUQ.

[5] Linda Nicholson, Feminism in “Waves”: Useful Metaphor or Not?, New Politics (Winter 2010), http://newpol.org/content/feminism-waves-useful-metaphor-or-not.

[6] Rebecca Walker, Becoming the Third Wave, Ms. (January/February 1992).

[7] Short History of CEDAW Convention, United Nations, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/history.htm.

[8] Id.

[9] HeForShe Campaign, UN Women, http://www.heforshe.org.

[10] Id.

[11] Girl Rising, Girl Rising, http://girlrising.com.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

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Author: Ius Gentium

Ius Gentium is a legal forum for the University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows to write on and discuss international and comparative legal issues.

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