Why I wish International Women's Day Didn't Need to Exist
To be honest, when I first heard about International Women’s day, I thought that it was just another excuse to post a photo on Instagram or Facebook. Obviously I know now that it’s much more than that. Huffington Post described it perfectly: “Today is International Women's Day, a day devoted to recognizing the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the world.” It seemed weird to me to just be recognizing women on this single day, because I just assumed that we were being recognized all year round. Turns out I was wrong. I wish we didn’t need to devote a day to recognizing the amazing things women have done because that was happening year round. Why shouldn’t we be talking about women daily? Beyonce says that we run the world. And we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one day of recognition.
I’m not an expert in feminist issues. Though I am proud to call myself a feminist, I’ve only started to realize the different ways that women are oppressed in the world. We aren’t measured in a way that a male would be; instead our success is often placed within the context how well we’re fulfilling our traditional gender roles. Yesterday I read a shocking article on Thump via Vice about a beauty contest for female DJs. Shamefully, before reading the article, I saw nothing wrong with this—which now makes me realize how normalized sexist acts like these are. The contestants weren’t judged by their talent, but purely their looks, reinforcing the stereotype that the most successful women must be beautiful by society's standards, otherwise they will go unnoticed. International Women’s Day is needed to bring light to these issues. We need to go beyond stereotypes of what makes a woman as successful (ie. raising a family, looking conventionally beautiful), and bring attention to the things that men have been getting credit for for years. So many women are successful by their own terms. We are intellectuals, poets, artists, manufacturers, athletes: we need this day to recognize our talents and break stereotypical thoughts that lead to our degradation.
We need to specifically recognize the strength and power that women do possess, because then we can see the ways in which they are oppressed. If we simply had an empowerment day around the world, many women’s issues would be marginalized because they would be mixed in with the problems of the dominant gender: male. Our problems would be ignored, as they so often have been.
The fact that only 8.4 percent of executive managers in top 200 companies in 2002 were women reinforces this idea of male dominance, (http://www.executivestyle.com.au/statistics-confirm-its-still-a-mans-world-22zki) as does the fact that men in politics are generally seen as powerful leaders, despite the fact that women can be all of these things, too. It still seems we’re not equals though. An article on Forbes reads, “Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, the country’s first female leader, told me that successful women face typecasting largely because society is still adjusting to women’s recent decision-making power,” showing that there is still a huge stereotype around women in power. I found these statistics easily, which just goes to show the amount of inequalities there are out there.
We need have an equal voice in those economic and political realms, so that we can be equally represented in it. So the question that ran through my mind yesterday was: how do we get there?
Sure we could pretend that everything is okay for one day, but in order to be truly equal we need to create a society where International Women’s Day isn’t needed because our power is already present. We need to empower not only women but also men, to advocate for the equality of our gender. We need to go beyond labelling women’s success in terms of how well we achieve these pre-determined gender roles.
At the same time, we need to look at the way specific races, classes, and sexual identities all affect the way a woman is judged. It’s not just one issue that needs to be solved, but many complex factors that make up the stereotype that we live amongst. I talked mainly about the stereotypes faced by the dominant female ideal, but we have to remember that one problem faced by a woman won’t be faced the same by every woman. Simply thinking of women's issues from one angle means you are marginalizing other group’s issues; like thinking about how being black or asian could add another layer of oppression to an exsisting problem potentially?
I’m not claiming that I know how to solve a world-wide crisis (my ego isn’t THAT big...yet), all I know is that we need to do something. We need to talk, we need to think critically before judging women who are high in power, or even who are with us in class. Going beyond traditional stereotypes can allow us to see women as what we are: equals.
SO LET’S DO IT!
Let’s talk about the women in our life who are doing amazing things. Let’s recognize that there IS an unequal power balance, and strive every day in our lives to face the stereotypes that limit us. Talking about it will make the issue more prominent, and it doesn’t need to be a huge gesture every time we talk about women’s right. Often when thinking of empowerment I always imagine someone behind a podium, expressing their needs, concerns and opinions to an adoring crowd. (So pretty much any kind of Beyonce performance). Even small things everyday, like reminding yourself you don’t need to put on makeup for anyone but yourself, are expressions of empowerment. Reminding yourself that you are not limited to the stereotype that society wants you to live up to means that you can be an athlete and a makeup artist if you want; there is no limit to the expression of identity when we take away this stereotype.
Let’s do this.