The week started with rather colourful celebrations of Holi, the Indian festival of colours. It’s a riot of colours – shades of red, pink, green, blue, yellow, orange, each trying to dominate the human canvas. But the festivities of Holi did not derail the celebrations for Women’s Day. This celebration has become a part of the annual festivities calendar and is gaining more prominence with each year. But what is it that we are celebrating and is all this noise of any use? Should we stop celebrating Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day, or IWD in short, is celebrated every year on 08 March globally. On this particular day, we acknowledge the achievements of women, their contribution to society, their strengths and their struggles. We congratulate them on the significant strides they have taken in moving ahead and breaking the glass ceiling every now and then. Done!
Commercialising the celebrations of IWD
Every inch of the media, digital or otherwise, is filled with stories of women who have struggled against the patriarchal systems to make it on their own. The newspapers are overflowing with not-so-subtle discounts and offers (how stereotypical to assume that women would only be scanning through for these!). Like every other movement that started out with good intentions, celebrating the IWD too has got overshadowed by these crass commercialisations.
Do we really need a day to celebrate women?
Doesn’t all this appear patronising or condescending? I mean we don’t celebrate a (Gentle)Men’s Day and then glorify their achievements. Or is it because it has always been about men and hence the need to bring women to the forefront? Dedicating one day for all the bouquets and then the rest of the year for the brickbats does not sum up well. And then we pat ourselves on our back for having been so supportive and allowing them such successes. Reeks of hypocrisy and double standards.
We don’t need a day to celebrate women. Women are the life force whether one agrees or not! That being said, the treatment of women has always been full of paradoxes. On one hand, we worship Durga and Shakti and on the other hand, we have child marriages, gender-based violence and discrimination. The proportion of women in the workforce has grown yet their representation in leadership positions is negligible. We want them to participate fully in society, yet cases of domestic violence lay bare the ugly realities. How can such contrasts co-exist?
I feel the current generation of men find themselves at a crossroads. They want to look ahead and break out of the tangles of the patriarchy web, give women the long-denied equal status, treat them without discrimination or bias. Yet it’s not easy shaking off the centuries of deeply ingrained patriarchal thinking.
With every step the women take forward, the men are feeling more and more threatened. Their undisputed position looks shaky. And that explains the growing violence (not just physical but emotional also) against women. There’s this one scene from The Intern where Anna Hathway celebrates with the guys in the bar after the successful “heist”? She nails the whole discussion on the great man-woman progress report. It’s a good movie; all about the constant see-saw going on in a woman’s mind. Recommend watching; it’s not a chick-flick.
Wherever you look, it’s the same pattern. Be it Iran or Africa or anywhere else. The voices of women are being shut out and they are being treated as objects, not humans. Regressive practices propped up on the crutches of religion or traditions won’t last long if the united voice of progress stands up to them. Honestly, I don’t know which is a greater threat to the world – global warming or snuffing out female lives.
Let’s start a movement. No more talking.
Instead of sending WhatsApp forwards wishing Happy Women’s Day or offering silly discounts or vouchers or organising fetes or jamborees, what’s important is we join the movement to create a space where women are treated as humans, to begin with. Then we can talk about creating equal opportunities, where their aspirations are not constrained by antiquated social norms.
Corporations can stop the annual PR/HR theatrics and address the real concerns that women are putting forward by making their policies more contemporary and relevant. Let more women be involved in policymaking at the workplace so that it isn’t biased or male-centric. Ever since women joined the workforce some problems have remained the same – childcare alternatives, maternity leave, redressal of grievances, inaction against workplace harassment, and some other such. Let there be less dialogue/discussion and more concrete action.
Gender sensitivity and breaking gender stereotypes should begin in schools. Especially in the early years, encourage students to engage in activities together instead of creating the boys-girls divide, particularly when it comes to sports. No ‘football for boys’ and ‘kho-kho for girls’. When the boys learn to interact with girls on a level playing field (figuratively), they learn to accept them as fair competitors and hence will not feel threatened by them later in life. If the foundations are made strong now, then their future becomes stronger.
Till then don’t wait for things to happen; make them happen. It’s time to fly, dearies! A big shout out to all the females in my life.
We should stop celebrating Women’s Day. But if we must then, let’s stop harping about what the women have achieved (it sounds indulgent and condescending) and talk about the positive and effective steps that have been taken that ensured that more women achieved their goals. There will be no shortage of female achievers then pursuing their dreams.
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Always love reading your posts. They are very thought provoking and bring out the nuances of the topic really well. Eagerly waiting for your next post.