Friday, March 08, 2013
On The International Women's Day, 2013
The meaning of this day seems to be changing to something a little like Mothers' Day. I spot people congratulating women on this day and such. That's not the intention of the day. It also feeds directly into the argument that having a day for women but not a special set-aside day for men is sexist.
Of course the traditional tongue-in-cheek response to that argument is that we have 364 other annual days for men, and this is true on several levels.
Just read a few newspapers and observe what the sections cover, whose pictures they mostly publish and whose opinions they record. The sections of a newspaper used to cover domestic and foreign politics (mostly men), the economy and the stock market (mostly men), sports (almost completely men) and then a few areas (local news, cooking, tourism) which might have had a few more women. Start paying attention to the male-female percentages in various panel discussions on television. Notice how the role of women in many movies were deemed covered if there was one of each necessary type (girlfriend, mother, evil slut).
Things are not quite that bad in the US and Europe today but you can still easily spot the difference. And the new VIDA counts on book reviews and book reviewers, by gender, tells us that even in an area which the evo-psychos and other essentialists argue belongs to the girls by their innate excellence, language use, it is the girls who fail to get much attention in most of those august newspapers.
In a more global sense women are still mostly in deep s**t. The laws of many countries disadvantage them from birth and assign their ownership to their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Rape and other forms of sexual violence can be ignored or even result in the punishment of the victims. Still-living traditions having to do with the way one acquires a wife and how one treats a daughter-in-law can be monstrous. Women in some countries cannot inherit the land when their husbands die, women in other countries need the husband's permission to go out alone.
And most significantly for me: Women are looked down upon, despised, in far too places on this planet. A little girl's birth is a failed experiment, something of lower value. Because of social traditions, it can burden a poor family so much that the family chooses to kill the child or abandon her when that would not have been done to a boy baby.
I don't usually go all righteous on these topics though they cut my heart like knives most days. But the point of the International Women's Day is to remember those horrors, to remember the injustices, to start persuading people that girls and women are human beings, too, to fix the injustices. The point is not, as some fairly oblivious people argue, to give women their very own day when men do not have one. That would be a reasonable argument if women and men were already treated equally all over the world.
The problem the International Women's Day was created to solve is not that we didn't have a day like Mothers' Day for all women. That would be silly. Neither is the International Women's Day supposed to be there to shame the men who live today. They are, after all, born into the same societies as the women and absorb the same rules and those who uphold the unfair structures include women. No, those are not the intentions. The intentions are to keep in mind one widespread injustice that we have not been able to fix yet.