Thursday, March 08, 2012

International Women's Day Thoughts

Today is the International Women's Day. I don't feel any strong pressure to write on women on this particular day, given that I do it, errr, quite a bit.

My feelings about the day itself are somewhat mixed though mostly positive. I've seen it criticized as a sexist day because there is no International Men's Day. Though the need for one might not be terribly urgent given that all the other days of the year are pretty close to just that and given that we don't have the equivalent of a gender-reversed Saudi Arabia on this planet. So that's not the reason for my mixed feelings.

The day is useful because it gives a small opening for both pointing out major problems women face in this world just because of being women and for celebrating individual women's achievements. The latter is needed to counteract the still-common global prejudice that women aren't capable of much except that children/housekeeping/sex thing or shouldn't seek any other roles.

And of course this can also be a time to celebrate the advances women have made, both in this country and all over the world. Many of those are due to the hard work of feminists, by the way.

But the usefulness of this day is also a problem. What should we squeeze into this one day each year? What most deserves to get an airing? Concerns about women in the US? What's happening to rape victims in Congo wars? What's happening to women's rights in the Arab Spring? To the women who protested all over the Middle East?

Setting this one day aside is almost an invitation to ignore those issues the rest of the year. We can all return to ignoring the serious problems of medical fistulas in Africa or the way legally enforced gender apartheid is somehow not the same problem as racial apartheid was in South Africa.

It's not this particular day of the year that bothers me, in short. It's all the other days of the year and the way women's issues are usually ghettoized, despite the fact that women are roughly half of all people. That makes all this even weirder though it's weird enough with concepts such as Black History Month in the US. What are all the other months in history, then? White History Months?

OK. Enough grumbling from me. Ideally we wouldn't need an International Women's Day, but in this reality it can be a useful thing to have.