Thoughts on International Women’s Day

 

Much has been said and done today on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Personally, it came to me as an after-thought and I’d even forgotten about it this morning until I came across Sali Hughes’ piece in the Pool.

Dutifully, I put on a red lipstick and set aside any thoughts about the superficiality of it all. I feel like wearing red lipstick, much like celebrating International Women’s Day is all about the significance you attach to it. It can mean nothing and everything at the same time. Yes, that is a banal thought but just look at the variety of views on IWD. I have seen women questioning and debating the need to celebrate IWD while others have spread their good wishes and cheer. Personally, I don’t see the harm. I don’t know anyone who has spent masses of time celebrating IWD- Everyone has gone about living their lives but things are just a bit more sisterly than usual.

HOWEVER. A message from an acquaintance once again highlighted why we need feminism and a day to mark the movement. It went something like this…

[Paraphrased]

Dear [  ],

Happy Women’s Day!

You are all multi-tasking divinities, manifesting into a Mother, Wife, Daughter, Friend and spreading love and affection!

This was echoed by another (male) acquaintance: ‘Agree with him- Stay strong‘.

First, I had a massive eye-roll at the list. Yes, let’s all be congratulated for all the different ways in which we enrich YOUR life, while artfully juggling along the way. Ever wondered why women need to be good at multi-tasking. Multi-tasking… that ‘natural gift’ we’ve all been blessed with.

I do appreciate the acknowledgement and we should be talking more about balance. But here, I feel like I’m being given a prize for managing so well and ‘staying strong’.

I think IWD messages can be hard to accept when they come from a man. The sentiment may be genuine but perceptions about a woman’s place in the world are so deeply ingrained that they seep through the most innocuous of statements. No wonder I spend my days shaking my fists at some of the things I see people say on Facebook.

Plus, something about the man/woman equation really throws off statements like this. My friend put it well when she said ‘well, we’d appreciate some help  in ‘staying strong’. I found this to be true as well – We’re ‘drowning not waving’.

Anyway, to end this on a positive note…because after all, IWD is a day to celebrate and commemorate the movement, here is a small selection of positive messages that I read today:

I raise up my voice, not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard – Malala Yousafzai.

My friend Eleonora posted this touching piece on Facebook:

Happy International Women’s Day to all those who identify as women! My heart is full on this day that celebrates us. But it isn’t only full of happiness because it isn’t just a happy day.

Grateful International Women’s Day! To the awesome women who, mostly unbeknown to them, inspire me to inhabit the world with confidence and to be awake to the struggle of other women.

Angry International Women’s Day, angry at so many acts of aggression big and small, physical and psychological. Angry that in Italy the right of a doctor to choose whether to exercise conscientious objection still trumps the right of a woman to choose what happens to her own body. #LottoMarzo

Grieving International Women’s Day, grieving for Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Keke Collier, Jojo Striker; Nicola Beck, Kerri McCauley, Eulin Hastings, Victoria Shorrock, Leone Weeks, Kiran Daudia, Kulwinder Kaur, Anne Forneaux, Anita Downey, Chrissy Kendall, Gillian Zvomuya, Amandeep Kaur, Tina Billingham, Hannah Dorans, Catherine Kelly, Hang Yin Leung, Karina Batista, Humara Khan, Hazel Wilson Briant, Margaret Stenning, Avis Addison, Julie McCash, Sarah Pitkin, Lea Adri-Soejoko. They remind me that this struggle which manifests as injustice to me, can manifest to others as direct and life-threatening violence.

Hopeful International Women’s Day, when I look at the daughters of my friends, full of confidence and joy and mischief and imagination, and I look forward to the time the world will be in their hands. Hopeful International Women’s Day, when I look at the sons of my friends, and I look forward to a future when they’ll be able to express their femininity without shame, treat all women as their equals, and exact that all other men do the same.

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