Women’s Day, a time when we find new ways of brandishing the burdens of womanhood and showing the world the epic struggle that is being a female.
It is also a day not safe from “religious holiday syndrome”. During Christmas or Easter a great number of people suddenly remember where their local church is having forgotten the rest of the year.
The same goes for Women’s Day
It comes but once a year and is a time to break out that amazing quote, talk about the plight of the girl child and tweet until you show your most socially-conscious self.
This year we are being asked to #WearADoek. Hundreds of rapes, femicides and other social ills occur and we are asked to wrap our heads in solidarity. And people wonder why women’s rights are not taken seriously.
Let me state that I am not diminishing the importance of such a day. We need to take a moment to stop and highlight the reality that women face. The problem with confining the “best of activism” to a single day is that it allows for this reality to escape the public psyche for the remaining 364 days of a year. Women’s issues are relegated to the confines of August 9 (or March 8 for International Women’s Day) and allows for society to break out their best pro-women statements and statuses while little to nothing changes for those who suffer everyday injustices.
It adds to the idea of making something exist outside the realm of the everyday, which means it can be ignored or focused on at an individual’s discretion.
The perpetual “othering” of a problem.
The same goes for labelling “gender-based violence” and other forms of discrimination based on gender “women’s issues”.
This allows men to be like “well, they are your problems so you fix them”. It is a pink-and-red infused problem for the “ladies” to tackle.
This allows for the notion that issues pertaining to gender operate in silos allowing for the continuous marginalisation of women. It is not about economics, or politics, or society but about “women”.
Gender issues are no more “a woman thing” than money is a “man thing”. Men get raped too while also being rapists. Men get beaten up by spouses too while also being abusers. Men are discriminated against while also being those who discriminate.
We are all in this hot pot called life together.
There is the idea that these issues operate in a vacuum that allows for Women’s Day, gender commissions and “bring a girl child to work day” to exist yet little seems to change in the grander scheme of things.
Half the people who feel they should be involved think this is not about them and the other half is just fighting the tide.
So what has this glass menagerie of departments, commissions, initiatives and holidays done expect superficially beautify a country’s socio-political landscape, something akin to putting a new coat of paint on a beat-up VW beetle and calling it a Mini Cooper? We can hear the splutter and cough of the engine and the clutch is still acting up.
We do not need a women’s parliament, we need a parliament filled with politically active women. We do not need a youth parliament but a parliament brimming with the younger generation playing an integral role. If these commissions and institutions are truly there to make a difference then they must not be sectioned off but become integral to the everyday workings of our society.
Every day should be women’s day, youth day, workers’ day and gay pride because these are the realities that need to be changed on a daily basis. One day in the year where we pledge to celebrate the fundamental hard work of the average worker does not remedy the fact that he is feeding a family for a month on the pocket money the CEO of his company gives his 10-year-old for a few hours of play. A day in which we celebrate the rainbow that is sexuality does not change the fact that hate crimes against those in the LGBTI community occur.
We literally have it backwards.
What we do need is a day for men, suburbia tours, a day for the CEOs, a white history month.
We need a time when privilege and issues of power relations in a particular space and context are highlighted and analysed. Not a time when we give a courtesy nod to a utopian dream and go back to the status quo in which every day is men’s day and CEO’s day.
We need to spend 364 days tackling the weeds that have overtaken the garden that is our society and convinced all who see it that it is a beautiful prize-winning flower.
As long as I am seen as less competent than a man to run an organisation, more likely to be a victim of rape than be educated and have the unique possibility of being violently attacked because the love of my life is a woman, then to quote Helen Moffett you can “take your Women’s Day and shove it”.
Image – Gallo