Around the World / Awareness / Boston University / fegossen

International Women’s Day: yay or nay?

So today is International Women’s Day. Most people have probably heard of this holiday solely due to Google changing its front page. Another means? Facebook.

One of our guest post contributors, fegossen made this is her status, and here’s the conversation that followed between her and two other BU students.

Frances: I don’t understand International Women’s Day. Am I supposed to feel overwhelming pride today more than other days because I have boobs and a uterus? Am I supposed to celebrate my…femaleness? Or is this some symbolic thing? Am I supposed to celebrate my shared oppression with women the globe over? Our shared success as a gender? Do men celebrate this day by showing preferential treatment to women at job interviews or elsewhere? That doesn’t seem very equalizing. Perhaps I have to express extra-muchly what being a woman means to me. How do I even do that? Gahhhh! Why can’t I just be a woman and not have to feel pressured to be special because of that incredibly simple fact? Being a woman allies me with 50% of the population; it’s not that special. If we’re going to celebrate something about female…ness, fucking stop being lazy and pick something we should actually celebrate like “We get jobs now Day” or “Yay we don’t have to be sexually/physically/societally repressed anymore Day” or “We get to wear skirts AND jeans AND dresses so suck it men Day”. I’d be down for celebrating any of those, but seriously, there is nothing inherently more special than anything else in my being a female. Just chill.

Greg: Began as a socialist thing, apparently. According to Wikipedia: “International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year.[2] In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political, and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily in Europe, including Russia. In some regions, the day lost its political flavor, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. In other regions, however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. This is a day which some people celebrate by wearing purple ribbons.”

Kanisha: Franny nooooo. No no no. Just all the no. Its about raising awareness about gender inequality all over the world, especially about increasing access to proper healthcare for women. It’s about celebrating how far we’ve come in the past few decades, but also recognizing that around the world we still have a LONG way to go.

Frances: Kanisha, I agree in general with the concept of taking a day to remember the struggles of women on the way to inequality and to raise awareness of issues that still exist considering women’s health issues and other such matters, but none of that is obvious with the simple title International Women’s Day. In fact, I have a few actually rational arguments against IWD. First of all, the general name of the holiday leaves very little ability for unity around the central issue of proper healthcare to women and the long way to go women still have. Instead, it becomes just a way to say “Yay! Women” or any other interpretation (as Greg’s informative post and my ranting one state). Look at the video for example. Does that say anything about any issue women face? No! It just has a bunch of women saying “Happy IWD” like we’re all united despite our differences. Around what? Being female? Good for us…. My other problem with this branding as Women’s Day is that it labels these issues as “female”, a marker that isn’t really accurate. It’s grouping us all together, all our struggles together, all our successes together, and still separating us from men and the equality the majority of feminism fought to attain. Even more so, it’s saying these problems don’t exist for other people. Yes, women get the shorter end of the stick in many societies, and we should be working to prevent that, but raising women up on a pedestal isn’t really the way to do that. Finally, the name isn’t doing anything to equalize women and men for the same reasons Black History Month is less offensive than black people month. My point is mostly that whoever named this holiday needs to stop being lazy and realize if they want to rally for a cause, they need to create some awareness of what that cause is, not just of the fact that women exist. International Women’s Day is about the least helpful title for that cause.

Kanisha: I mean I understand the need to relabel the day. But I think your frustration lies with how people interpret it, the main reason for it is international women’s issues. But I would highly disagree that its raising women on a pedestal. I was only familiar with the day through my work at [Planned Parenthood] so maybe my interpretation of the day is much different than that of the general public, but I think its great that we have a day thats a ‘call to action’ to rally around issues that women around the world face. The campaign that the UN and PP work on for example is “the world I want to live in” and its about recognizing health disparities globally. I think its a little harsh to criticize it because of the way its worded. The whole point is that through out time women across cultures, countries, and generations have different needs and the reason for keeping the name so ambiguous is so that every year it can change in meaning as women’s needs change. I think its more of a matter of being frustrated with people who misinterpret what the day represents rather than the concept itself. I think its unfair to call organizers ‘lazy’ in not changing the name. It’s been around for decades and it doesn’t actually ‘belong’ to any one organization. I don’t think it was ever intended to be a day of “yeah lets all be happy that we were born with vaginas!”. But yeah it should probably be called something more along the lines of “International Women’s Rights Day” or something.

Greg: Greg humbly submits to all that he was just quoting Wikipedia, and doesn’t know enough about IWD to offer an opinion worth reading.

Kanisha: Yeah that wiki quote is kind of confusing because I have never encountered anyone who thinks of International Women’s Day as a day to “express their love for women”. Like what? I would really like to know where they do that.

Greg: George W. Bush Speech (uploaded July 2007)

Kanisha: This wins the internet comment award of the day.

Frances: Yes I agree that this day can be used very well and that every way in which it is used it excellent, I just don’t think it’s being used incredibly well overall. Like it seems its become more of a place holder for whatever necessary women’s issue necessary…which I guess is kind of cool soooo there’s that….

So what does this make you think about International Women’s Day? Is the term the problem, the different ways the day is being portrayed/used, or are you okay with it?

Thanks to Frances, Kanisha and Greg for their permission to post their discussion here on HOOCHIE!

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