Have we confused International Women’s Day with Valentine’s Day?

8 Mar

Let us celebrate! For IWD has come and we have the opportunity to shop, get treated to gifts and get “pampered” by men. This is exactly what the women’s rights movement needs, after all.

Wouldn’t it be preferable to enjoy equality in pay, less violence, less discrimination, more opportunities rather than the opportunity to be pampered and spoilt for one day a year? You see, mathematically speaking – even if you put justice aside – if we had equal pay, we could treat ourselves a whole lot more often than just the once per year.

In my hotel in Hanoi this morning I was given a red rose. I was again given a red rose by my gym. And when I was having lunch, sitting at a low table in a bustling restaurant, I asked the couple opposite me what they did on this important day. The man tells me he will take his girlfriend for a nice lunch and dinner and get her a gift.

That is all well and good, and by all means do it on any other day of the year. But not on the day which should be reserved for a cause, a fight for a better world for women. Today is a day to stand up to inequality. Yet I’ve only really seen shops take on the challenge of IWD. The shops have all been proudly brandishing the IWD words and it pains me to see the cause be co-opted in such a calculated way, hijacking what once held such deep meaning and twisting it into just another profit-making mechanism.

Shops, go ahead and take our Valentine’s Day. Love will continue no matter what you do. Even take our Christmas. But not International Women’s Day. Save something for humanity to still have some hope.

Or are the shops just doing what we want them to do? In so many countries women and men labour under the impression that the fight is won and nothing is left to be done, so why not just shop? Sadly, this is simply incorrect, and maybe if we (myself included) stopped being distracted with the latest fashion, with taking selfies and with trawling for hours through Facebook we could instead look up at the world and recognise just how tragically unequal it really is.

Throughout lunch, the partner of the woman who I tried to converse with was speaking on behalf of his girlfriend. With every mouthful of the lunch which he would be paying for, in a small yet certain way he was denying her a voice. Whilst his romancing might seem innocent and thoughtful, I would still rather it remained in another century. Because this century needs change and women to speak for themselves, not to be spoken on behalf of.

Thanks but I don’t want another flower. I want equality.

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