Originally written by myself as a LinkedIn article.
International Women’s Day is observed every year on 8th March. Its roots can be traced back to 1908 when 15,000 marched on the streets of New York for better working conditions, pay and the right to vote. These women campaigned as a matter of life or death.
112 years later, the forebears of International Women’s Day would be puzzled if given the opportunity to partake in the observations of this very important day. Many companies and people have used their platforms to wish the women of this world “Happy International Women’s Day”, to commercialise and profit from the disparity of women.
In a society where people are encouraged to be socially responsible and petition and fundraise for the injustices that many face (think change.org and gofundme) to appease themselves of any negative contribution to the world, the collective plight of women seems to have been forgotten. You can now purchase greeting cards wishing the women in your life a Happy Women’s Day or Happy International Women’s Day.
When I see merchandise such as these cards, I wonder to myself “How are menstruating school-aged girls in Asia benefiting from the sales of these cards?” When people attempt to wish me a Happy International Women’s Day, I inform them of the gender pay gap and that it may take 100 years for that parity to be reached.
We already suffer from guilt if we don’t spoil our children on their birthdays and Christmas with plastic toy abundance and social media wishes littered with excessive adjectives. We now run the risk of hijacking a very special day with this very same commercial guilt the western world has blanketed us with.
You shouldn’t feel compelled to wish me a Happy International Women’s Day. What is so happy about a day or a world where one in three women have experienced sexual violence? What is so happy about women accounting for 24% of parliamentary seats globally when women and girls are approximately 49% of the world’s population? What is so happy about women owning approximately 1% of the world’s titled land?
I find it offensive and dangerous exchanging meaningless greetings when every day I am a woman who is very much aware of the privilege I have as an IT professional in the West. While I may be a source of strength for many professionally and personally, I owe the women in other areas of the world more than humbly accepting a greeting that does not positively impact my sisters in struggle.
I will not acknowledge my mother, aunts, cousins and grandmothers today. I am a strong woman who belongs to two matriarchies led and founded by stronger women. I know this, my family knows this and we don’t need a social media post to prove this. On Mothering Sunday, I make sure my mother knows that she is the foundation of any success and strength I possess. Today is not the day to reinforce this. Not when there are women in the world who just earned the “right” to drive. Not when there are girls who cannot go to school because they cannot afford the “luxury” of sanitary products during their menstruation.
So please don’t wish me or anyone else a Happy International Women’s Day. Instead, use this day to understand the challenges that women face, the violence that many of them endure, the destructive social construct in place that prevents them from progressing. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Donate to causes that benefit women. Let’s #EachforEqual in a meaningful way instead of posting yet another selfie in honour of ourselves.