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Ana Marta González González, Professor of Philosophy Moral of the University of Navarra and scientific coordinator of the Institute for Culture and Society

A purpose on March 8

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 12:30:00 +0000 Published in El Diario Vasco, El Comercio and Las Provincias

Since its institutionalization by the United Nations in 1975, on March 8 we celebrate International Women's Day, formerly called 'Working Women's Day'. Under the slogan set by the United Nations for this year, 'Now is the time: rural and urban activists transform women's lives', the 2018 celebration has been presented with a strong symbolic charge, becoming a vehicle for moral claims that exceed the world of work.

The success of this year's event lies in having been able to capitalize on a social sentiment that had been brewing for some time, fueled in part by the dramatic cases of gender violence we experienced last year, by campaigns such as #Metoo or #Timesup, and also by more recent initiatives for equal pay. That social sentiment, often buried, has been externalized in the form of popular clamor: a strong clamor, because it is an expression of a sense of justice that should find equal seat in men and women.

The fact is that what was commemorated on March 8 is not a 'gender' claim. It is first and foremost a moral claim, of universal value. Certainly, it is not the only moral cause that deserves attention; we can think of issues such as human trafficking, which, moreover, touches many women closely - though not only. But the equality of men and women, its repercussions on family and social life, is not - it should not be - a topic that only interests women. As long as we see it that way, we will see it in the wrong way.

Undoubtedly, identity movements have a place in social life: they serve to make previously buried problems visible, generate social awareness and catalyze collective action. However, the protagonists of the social changes we hope for must be men as well as women, and for this reason both men and women must be involved in joint reflection on the nature and causes of the injustices we detect, as well as their possible solutions.

Such reflection is more necessary than ever in times of accelerated change. Social transformations - what sociologists call morphogenesis - often generate bewilderment; the world that many took for granted, as if it were a matter of course, collapses and new possibilities open up, new ways of living, and also new ways of feeling and looking. Relationships between men and women, the implicit codes of conduct by which we regulate family, professional and social life, are affected by these changes. Those who confuse morality with custom are likely to get lost along the way. Women's access to Education and to the world of work, the opportunities in life that have opened up for women - and which many are held back by the so-called 'glass ceiling' - are not compatible with cultural and social inertias that have been dragging on for centuries and which today are difficult to tolerate, both in the sphere of family relations and in the world of work.

As Tocqueville saw, the democratic principle tends by itself to inform all aspects of social life, without exception, irremediably modifying the life expectations of all people, be they men or women. The question is whether, as a society, we live up to these expectations, since what is on the table in final is the fairness in the distribution of burdens and benefits when building family and social life, and in this distribution class there is an extreme - that of family life - whose relational dynamics, in what is more specific, exceeds what is provided by law, because it responds to and incorporates factors from another subject, which can only arise from the concerted freedom of the parties.

Certainly, recognizing the limits of the law at the level of personal relationships should not prevent promote from making the necessary structural changes, at the level of legislation, in order to promote equal pay and facilitate the breaking of the glass ceiling. It should not be forgotten, however, that the real challenge is often to be found at the level of informal culture, where gender clichés and expectations are born, where networks of trust are forged that open the way for men while closing it to women, where the 'cement ceiling' also emerges, with which some women set themselves limits that may not have been imposed on them from outside. March 8 was a symbolic day, but facing these challenges is a long-haul task that involves all of us in our daily lives.