It’s International Women’s Day today (March 8) and as usual on these occasions I am finding it hard to suppress my grumpiness.
The day is not widely marked in South Africa, perhaps because we have our own even more irritating day in August.
In our weekly editorial planning meeting, our feeling at IOL was that we didn’t need to do anything other than the odd story (on the grounds of general boredom at the worthiness of it all, more than anything else) but I was challenged to set the cat among the platitudinous pigeons.
So what is so irritating about this day? Let’s take a foreign example. A story we did not use from the Belfast Telegraph begins: “International Women's Day... is celebrating Belfast's unsung - and well known - heroines. Events include a project to rename streets after women, a conference on women in politics and a bus tour giving a women's eye view of the city.”
A bus tour giving a women’s eye view of the city? Really? Are we suggesting that women somehow have eyes that are different from men’s? If not, then what could this bus tour possibly be offering?
Whether we are honouring heroines of the struggle, or celebrating the achievements of the women’s movement, or suggesting that some special woman deserves breakfast in bed or a day at the spa, we are saying that women are somehow different from men. We are saying that something about them needs different treatment from men.
And what does being “special” in this way do? It opens the door to discrimination, is what it does.
Women all over the world are still oppressed, beaten, killed, deprived of education.
Girl children are killed because they are girls.
And that happens to them because, fundamentally, they are seen as different, useless, not fully human.
So how does a day celebrating their otherness (and giving rise to a lot of patronising woolly thinking) help the cause, sisters and brothers? - IOL