March 8 is International Women’s Day.
On that day, each year, feminist scholars, women’s rights activists, national leaders, and United Nations bigwigs deliver long-winded, female-centric speeches.
High-flown jargon and impressive statistics about women’s progress around the globe are dished out like candy in a jar. A round of rallies, demonstrations, and seminars are held in various world capitals.
Wait. How many of you celebrated it? Better yet, how many of you even knew about it?
To what do we attribute this acute lack of awareness to? We, the women ourselves? The society we live in? The government? The advertising industry? They’re all guilty to an extent, in my humble opinion.
Vitriolic, as this might sound, women are their own worst enemies.
To a significant number of the female population, (at least, in Brookings, South Dakota) “feminism” is still a dirty word. In ultra-conservative quarters, it’s downright unflattering to call a woman a “feminist.”
Far worse, if the woman herself describes herself as one—it’s almost as if she’s confessed to having been an executioner in a Nazi concentration camp.
I hate to sound pedantic, but feminists aren’t necessarily angry, ugly, man-hating creatures, or all three, together. And if that’s the case, so can be any other woman. It hardly makes sense for women to be unsympathetic to the causes of their own kind.
Who we are, what we believe in, and how we conduct ourselves, is influenced heavily by our culture, upbringing, and social mores. From a very early age, girls in rural India are taught to be docile, timid, and shy.
While boys can ride a bicycle in the neighborhood, play cricket with their peers, girls are chastised for as much as talking too loud or too much. Is there anything remotely sinful about being audible, sociable, and expressive of one’s desires?
A mother or grandmother’s duty isn’t considered over until such time that she teaches the daughter or the grand-daughter the virtues of being a good homemaker, a good cook, and a good [read: slavish] wife.
Surely, there’s merit in knowing how to keep a beautiful home. But other than that, what’s the point? Subservience to husbands, as is practiced in India, is sheer torture, an untold agony for women.
The observance of a day, dedicated to women does little to further the cause of the millions of women the world over, who still suffer from socio-cultural, economic, and political biases on account of their gender.
The advertising world appears to be terribly biased against women, and that’s apparent in the way it depicts them as props to advertise products.
Impossibly slim women, in skimpy clothing, are used to sell everything from vodka to cars to yogurt. The adman (yes, most likely a man) will tell you that sex sells.
That’s not O.K.
But since women are being exploited anyway, I ask, why not pay a little tribute to women on a day dedicated to them? How many billboards, signs, Web banners, departmental store POPs, and other marketing paraphernalia do we see on International Women’s Day?
Compare that with what we see on Valentine’s Day. Save for the streets, the trees, the rooftops, virtually everything else is enveloped in red or pink on February 14.
It’s naivety on the part of women to believe that legislative measures and governmental policies will alone take women forward. Political tall talk will remain mere tokenism.
Words will remain lofty rhetoric until such time that women themselves take up the cudgels and break free from the shackles that hold us down.