Eye In The Sky

Don't wish me Happy Women's Day. It's a shame for what it is today

It will only be relevant when I don't have to march to India Gate for minors who are raped and burnt.

 |  Eye In The Sky  |  4-minute read |   08-03-2016
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Since morning my phone has been buzzing off the hook with "Happy Women's Day" wishes, little flower emoticons and all. One of them says, "Hope your day has sunshine and flowers and happy thoughts to fill the house. Happy Women's Day." Another one says, "Happy Women's Day", like one would wish Happy Birthday to someone you have never met but is on your Facebook friend list for no known reason.

All these wishes are from my male friends. I guess in this atmosphere of volatile gender debates, my friends are merely being politically correct without really realising the relevance of the words.

I don't understand the relevance of celebrating an International Women's Day either. Are we celebrating the great number of women and men who fought relentlessly in the early 20th century to bring gender parity. Are we celebrating women such as Simone de Beauvoir, author of the feminist bible The Second Sex,  or Gloria Steinem, author, journalist and feminist, who said "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

If we aren't celebrating these individuals, then let us start today. After all if it were not for an entire generation before us we wouldn't be sitting smug now writing articles on gender equality or voting for a government of our choice, or raising flags on rapes and domestic violence. So why don't we start the International Women's Day 2016 by showing some gratitude to those who actually fought the battle for us, even as we take it forward for "equal rights"!

Dialogue on gender parity and equality goes beyond the role of a woman in her social and home environment. It is probably why I find the purpose of a day dedicated to women rather retrogressive in the current social milieu. We have come a long way from when women could not vote or be educated and were merely tools for reproduction. But are we out of the woods?

I am inclined to be inspired by Chris Rock's (I know he reminds me of Madagascar too) opening statement at the Academy Awards this year. In his Marty-ish way, he hit the nail on the head when asked why this year's Oscars is all about racial controversy when it was never raised in 86 years. Rock said, "Well, because we people were busy getting lynched and raped 86 years ago, so we didn't give a black ass who took the awards!", referring to the period when America was in the throes of racial discrimination, politically and socially.

Ironically, it seems Unites States of America still is.

So should we celebrate an International Black Day? Whoa! That would be politically incorrect.

Well, so is International Women's Day. The battle may be over, but the war is yet to be won. Women across the world face discrimination of some sort or the other. The concept of equal work, equal pay is far from reality. Why, did you know that it costs 10 per cent more to dry clean a woman's shirt than a man's shirt? Yes, next time check your laundry bill and do the math. We are so way off the domestic violence chart that we have to show government-sponsored ads on television to educate people that it is a "punishable crime to beat up women".

The French government-sponsored an ad created by a fashion magazine against sexual harassment at workplace. In India, we are still figuring out the fineprint of some commission report that deals with sexual harassment at workplace! But I am glad I can vote now.

Meanwhile, our corporates have taken it upon themselves to give every ad campaign they make a lame gender twist in an effort to be in tune with the social dialogue. There is a campaign for a tea brand which shows a couple drinking tea while enjoying the rain, and the husband says some snacks would go well with the tea. The wife clears her throat, takes her own good time, smiles and eventually stammers something like, "May be it would taste better if you made it." That is gender equality for you: a wife meekly asking the husband to make some pakoda, and feeling very liberated!

There is another one where the husband gives a "surprise surprise" gift to his wife! Voila! A beautifully remodelled kitchen in her favourite colour. Now if that doesn't make her happy what will?

Shall we give this patronising attitude a break?

Gender dialogues are not lines for Hallmark cards. Nor will they be decided over a chai pe charcha or panel discussions. But I am sure they will help.

So while we appreciate all the Happy Women's Day wishes and pink flower emoticons, I will call it a day when I don't have to watch pakoda ads or march to India Gate, candle in hand, for the minor who was raped and burnt in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Till then, wish you all a Happy Men's Day.

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Writer

Neena Haridas Neena Haridas @neenaharidas

Editor-in-Chief of L'officiel India.

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