There are a couple of bloggers and writers who have shared their views today about why they don’t celebrate Women’s Day. That’s great, they’re entitled to their opinion – that’s what bloggers do ultimately. They’re controversial, contrarian, edgy – it’s what makes us view their pages. I’m not saying they don’t believe what they write about, but maybe some of them have forgotten why it is we celebrate this great day. So here are some of their views and why I don’t completely agree with them:
Women’s Day has been commercialised: Everywhere I looked today I was offered lotions and potions at a discount. Restaurants hopped onto the bandwagon too and I was offered free bubbly with my burger at Hudsons today (see below). It’s all crass, in your face marketing and sometimes it can feel a little condescending. But here’s why I don’t mind. I GET RIPPED OFF VIRTUALLY EVERY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR! Think about it. When do we actually get discounts aimed at our gender? After Christmas? Yes, that’s when I’m all tapped out, I’m afraid, and I end up wondering why I bought that expensive perfume for R999 when it’s now on special for R395 on Boxing Day. Women’s Day should be circled in our calendar ladies, as a time when we go off on our shopping spree without the extra guilt. Run out of lipstick at the end of July? Then don’t buy another till the 9 August – simple as that. Aim to buy all your lady products on this day and book that lunch so you can enjoy that cheap bubbly with your friends that you were going to do anyway.
We still live in a violent society: Why should we ditch Women’s Day because women are victims of violent crime, physical and mental abuse and even murder on a daily basis? We should use Women’s Day to remind South Africa and even the rest of the world that this is an issue we face on a daily, on a second by second basis. Yes Reeva Steenkamp was murdered in the most horrendous way. Yes Franziska Blöchliger was raped and killed in Tokai Forest. We live in a country where the most heinous of crimes are made against women. But how many of us that have complained about this have actually DONE something about it? Let’s perhaps make one big circle on the 9 August and make this a day where we make a small contribution to something like Rape Crisis or go walking in Tokai Forest in a group in honour of Blöchliger. Don’t ditch the day because there’s a problem. Use the day to do something about the problem. That’s why I admire the women who stood up in silent protest when President Zuma was making his speech with placards saying ‘Remember Khwezi’. For those who don’t know, Khwezi was the pseudonym given to the woman who accused the president of raping her. I’m not saying this is right but we’re not the only country where men literally get away with raping and murdering. Remember Brock Allen Turner? Yes, that smarmy, smug man who studied at Stanford, who got away with sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in because the judge (who was also a Stanford alumni – see the pattern) thought his career would be ruined if he got anything harsher than a six month sentence. But you know what gave me some hope? How America and the entire world got together to share this story on social media for weeks on end. Not to mention the fact that the woman who got sexually assaulted wrote the most poignant piece I’ve ever read, about how she was violated, torn apart at the trial and how Turner should go about his life following the trial. It’s so powerful, and she was so humble, that I intend to show it to my sons one day. While this will sadly not stop crimes against women it shows that how even in our darkest days we can produce something that will shine a spotlight on the injustices that women face on a daily basis.
Women are still not equal to men: Here in South Africa we don’t get paid the same as men for the same work that we do. But things are changing, and glass ceilings are being shattered as we speak – not necessarily in South Africa but elsewhere in the world. Take Sweden for example. Here gender equality is strongly emphasised in the Education Act. Girls now have better grades than Swedish boys and two thirds of all university degrees are given to women. Equal numbers of men and women take part in doctoral and postgraduate courses. Parental leave is given to both fathers and mothers and they’re allowed to share 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave. I could go on here but you get my drift…progress is being made and it’s not inconceivable that soon three of the most powerful countries in the world United Kingdom, Germany and the United States will all be run by women. As it happens two of the three are already run by tough ladies – Theresa May who’s the British Prime Minister and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.
The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities is a useless function: Some accuse this department of only speaking out when it’s Women’s Day, Women’s Month and during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children – a campaign that runs in November. While this may be true, there are some opposition parties who mean to do away with this useless function if voted into power. If the local elections are anything to go by, we need only vote for a party that offers a better alternative to make the message clear.
I’ll end by saying that I think some of us tend to get too incensed by the commercialisation of Women’s Day and the fact that some in government don’t have the political will to make any pertinent changes, to remember why we have Women’s Day to begin with. On this day, in 1956, 20,000 women of all races staged a march on the Union Buildings in protest against proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”.
A protest song was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.) All these decades on, the phrase “you strike a woman, you strike a rock” has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa. It was the people, women in particular, that asked for change – not the government.
I’m not here to criticise my fellow bloggers for pointing out that Women’s Day has turned into one big commercialised gig, where women simply purchase discounted lipstick and drink cheap bubbly. What I am saying is let’s all stand together and remember why this day came into being. Because 20,000 women stood up and said ‘enough’. Can you imagine what would happen if we all did that again and picked a day like today to do it?
*One writer who talked about not celebrating Women’s Day: ended it by saying she would be donating some money to Rape Crisis. We may differ in our views on Women’s Day but I agree with the sentiment and am making a small donation now too. Join me: http://rapecrisis.org.za/donate/