Today, this hundred and something’th International Women’s Day, I got onto a crowded bus. There weren’t any seats left. I stood in the aisle and prepared to remain there until it was time to get off. Noticing my no-discomfort-at-all, a scruffy mustache’d rural bro offered me his seat, which I tried to politely decline but then he got up and the bus was driving away and it was shaky and we were awkwardly close and the seat was empty and people were looking so I sat. From his bastion of benevolence, he looked down at me and mumbled: “Chivalry’s not dead. And isn’t it Women’s Day?”
Here is the problem.
International Women’s Day is not, or should not be, a 24 hour span of time in which people who are women are treated better than they would normally be treated. This is not Valentine’s Day, where otherwise shitty couples go to The Keg for two hours, have sex for one and then feel satisfied about their situation. This is not an opportunity to congratulate people on their gender. International Women’s Day exists because women (systematically, politically, domestically) have it rough, and if you make a joke about that phrasing then you should be embarrassed and recognize that you are part of the problem.
International Women’s Day should draw attention to the ongoing oppressions women endure, to vastly varying degrees, in every place in the entire world (I implore you to find me proof of a real matriarchy). Some countries treat International Women’s Day as a celebration. Here in North America, we collectively/rightfully scoff at the idea of enjoying such a holiday in places where women cannot vote/drive/have reproductive rights/make decisions based on their own interests and values. But western world: you’re a hypocrite, too.
For example: this morning, a website called AskMen.com posted a Happy Women’s Day (ugh) greeting to their Twitter account. “Women of the world, we love you” is what it said. Women of the world? That is literally 3,635,000,000 people. Do I even begin to attempt a summation of the vast stupidity of such a comment? Some AskMen.com intern eager to learn about gingham and protein shakes and “How To Deal With An Angry Feminist” (literally there is an article called this on their website) probably posted this to be sweet. And fine. I have been that Twittering intern. But when you’re saying “we love you, women of the world,” you’re actually being very dismissive, and presuming that there is something similar about each of these 3,635,000,000 people, based on their gender. Luckily, this intern is (probably, I mean fuck) a male working in Journalism, so he’ll have a copy editing job at The New York Times in two years and a corner office in approx. five.
Later, I read an interview that a journalist (who, full disclosure: is a dear friend and a superstar scribe who I hope to Kathleen Hanna beats the aforementioned AskMen.com intern to that corner office) did with Jeanne Beker in her lavish home. It is a Women’s Day-themed Q+A with a wealthy, successful, celebrity woman. No problem — minus the celebrity part, I, too, endeavor to be these things. Also: Jeanne Beker is white, which matters. In the interview, Beker calls feminism “outdated” but then encourages all women to have children and talks shit about the Kardashians. Then it slips into high heels and Paris territory and I have to throw up and refocus. BRB.
International Women’s Day should not be a spotlight on women who have succeeded, or women who play guitars (move on) or women who do cool things and don’t care about what you think. (Arrogance is privilege, Jeanne Beker.) A better use of this day would be to consider and amend the reasons why not all women get those things when they want them.
This is not an occasion to wish someone a Happy [Sorry That Your Gender is Treated So Poorly By Politics/Media/Society That We’ll Give You Time to Think About How Unfair This is] Day. “Happy Women’s Day, bitches!” tweets and “Women in Rock” lists and the very nice but actually v. condescending bequeathing of your seat (because of my gender) on the bus aren’t helping. International Women’s Day should open dialogue about reproductive rights, sexual assault, wage equality, domestic abuse, the present Republican candidate horror show, governmental rights and the lack thereof (ie. this, as of this week), laws, legislature, injustice, this culture of violence etc. etc.
I am completely down with the intentions of International Women’s Day, but let us not forget what those are. Progress? Discussion? Jeanne Beker’s shoes? Yes/yes/come on.