First thing this morning, I was wished Happy Women’s Day. Instead of making me smile, each subsequent wish poured in via various Twitter hashtags and Whatsapp and Facebook groups, complete with definitions of women sent me into a slow-spiraling paroxysm of anger. Here are a few sample definitions:
“A beautiful woman draws strength from trouble, smiles during distress, and grows stronger with prayers and hope.” This, accompanied with flowers and the silhouette of a barbie doll.
“Women are amazing. She can put a smile on her face, act like everything is fine. When in reality, the world is on her shoulder and her life is slipping through the cracks of her fingers.”
Aha. Thanks for telling me what makes an ideal woman: someone who smiles during distress and pretends as if nothing is wrong. Really? Is that what an ideal woman is like? Not a woman who meets the distress head on, gets everyone to help as needed, and acts like an adult, self-respecting person, not a martyr-syndrome marionette? Facing troubles with a smile all by herself is what makes a woman beautiful (represented by a barbie-doll figure, no less)?
When did Women’s day start first of all, and why? There are divided opinions but most origin stories agree that Women’s day is supposed to be the anniversary of a strike by working women fighting for equal rights. Yes, equal salaries, and equal political rights.
So why is it that underwear companies and spas are going berserk trying to give discounts to women so they can ‘look more beautiful’ for cheaper? Why is celebrating womanhood becoming a marketing gimmick aimed at women? Why offer a lipstick or an undergarment– why not equal wages and opportunities instead? I can get behind #PledgeforParity , for one. In some countries, they’re organizing career fairs and technology events, but in others, come on, a sale on cosmetics and cutlery? Meanwhile my Facebook timeline is awash with everyone wishing women a Happy Women’s Day. Someone who believes women should cover up to avoid rape, was one of the first to wish me. Women are wishing each other, too. Thankfully, some of us are doing it with irony, speaking tongue-in-cheek about women who do not need validation.
Rapes, molestations, genital mutilations, female foeticide and infanticide, acid attacks and domestic violence continue unabated– business as usual– while people drink champagne at gala lunches, interview women about their achievements, and sell them fancy cosmetics and clothes at discounted prices. Women stay enslaved to different masters: either it is to men they do not have the power to protest against, or to the spell of the glamour industry, where an educated woman spends precious hours and currency to ‘look right.’ A day, a week, a month of hoohaaa and sops, and then things go back to normal after certain companies have made enough money at the expense of women they pose to support.
Do we women need to be ‘cherished’ on one particular day? Isn’t a woman a person, just like a man, and like other people who subscribe to different gender identities? Doesn’t a woman just need the right to live, Freely and Safely, and have access to the Same Opportunities as everyone else? Why just talk about ‘smiling in distress’ then?
We’re all children of light. Each one of us, woman, man, and other gender identities, irrespective of sexual orientation, color, race or creed is part of this wonderful soup we call Humanity. We’re Human. Don’t we all need to respect and celebrate ourselves, every day, each minute, because life itself is a miracle?
If 8th March is Women’s day and March is women’s month, what about the other 364 days, and the other 11 months? Are they not women’s days and months? Who is an ideal woman? Do women need cheaper clothes and cutlery or equal rights to jobs, opportunities and security?
Are you celebrating woman’s day or month? What activity forms part of this celebration? Has Women’s day become a marketing gimmick in your part of the world? Have you wished someone Happy Women’s Day?