Friday, March 08, 2019

The Hallmark Cards Version of the International Women's Day

The 2019 International Women's Day is today, and it is also being slowly watered down in social media, at least in the countries I access there.  It's becoming a day to give flowers to people whose achievement is that they are women, and to thank them for carrying out their culturally ordained female gender roles*! 

Although there's nothing necessarily wrong in celebrating some demographic group for existing, I am very uncomfortable with any attempt at deifying gender and gender roles (for that way leads to more inequality)**.

I am also uncomfortable with the implicit assumption in this new celebration that all women are identical spoonfuls from the same large homogeneous soup, but also completely different from all men (who are usually not seen as being just spoonfuls from a different but also homogeneous soup bowl.)  Still, if people want to have International Days of flower-giving for all the possible various demographic groups, go for it.

But that was not the intention of the International Women's Day.  Rather, it was intended to be a day which would remind us about the oppression of women, still everyday life in many countries, which would celebrate the advances that have taken place in increasing the equality between men and women, and which would remind us about the enormous tasks still ahead.

*  Anti-feminists in the US argue that we should celebrate an International Men's Day with equal attention, that having a special day for women but not one that makes men the focus of admiration is a great unfairness.  We should have a day when we celebrate men for fulfilling their culturally decreed gender roles and when we give them flowers and thanks for that.  Or cigars and booze, I guess,  given the culturally decreed gender norms.

And if the International Women's Day becomes just a Hallmark Cards event, that's what is probably going to happen.

But the real reason for the International Women's Day, as intended,  is that in most of the world almost every other day looks a lot like an International Men's Day.  And that is not fair. 

**  This is what happens when the amorphous mass "women" are thanked for all the extra unpaid work they do while also working in the labor force, or when women are thanked for being kind and submissive and caring.  When it is done under the flag of an International Women's Day, with no plan to alter any of the problematic aspects of that division of labor, it serves to "essentialize" gender roles and norms.