Today is International Women’s Day. That’s right, we get a day. Just one, mind you. And we have to share it with Proofreading Day, Be Nasty Day, Commonwealth day, Organise Your Home Office Day and Peanut Cluster Day. In a way, all these things fit together. Today we celebrate women by having them correct their mistakes, stand up for themselves (which earns them the label ‘difficult,’ or ‘nasty’), be diplomatic, tidy the office and then reward ourselves with chocolate. And before women feel too good about themselves (Now that we have a DAY), keep in mind tomorrow is National Barbie day. Because having Barbie day on Women’s day would be a little too on the nose.
International Women’s Day was created in 1910, at a Working Women’s Conference in Copenhagen. I think it must have been a largely European thing for a long time, because I never learned about it at school in Canada. Perhaps I just went to some very sexist schools. It was created to highlight and promote Women’s rights. I don’t know if it’s down to the celebrations on March 8, but women’s roles have certainly changed in the last 112 years, and it’s worth looking at those changes.
100, even 50 years ago, the gender roles were clear. Women were meant to get married, keep house, raise the kids. Women who didn’t marry were Old Maids, or Spinsters. Men were meant to Have Jobs, Make Money, Support their Family.
Slowly, things changed. Increased education has led to greater opportunities; reliable birth control has led to greater choices. Ironically, it also led to a more stressful time for women. The era of ‘Having it All;’ somehow women were supposed to pursue a successful career, keep house, raise kids and be the supportive wife to their husband.
Spoiler Alert; It didn’t work. no one can have it all and do it all well. The best you can hope for is be mediocre, hit-and-miss at everything, or Choose what’s important to you and forget the rest. Having choices means you get to choose, to say yes AND to say no.
The #metoo movement, and the #timesup movement, have highlighted the BS, sexism, misogyny, harassment and abuse women have always had to put up with. It’s actually fitting that Be Nasty day coincides with Women’s day, because that’s how a woman is perceived if she stands up for herself; Nasty, Rude… Unladylike.
The stigma of being thought Unladylike has been a straight jacket on women’s behaviour, thoughts and speech for so long. The most difficult bindings to break are the one’s we put on ourselves. But we are breaking them.
Women are choosing to marry, or not. Have kids, or not. And both are being recognised as perfectly legitimate choices. Being Unmarried of childless is no longer thought of as lesser. (For the most part, at least. Some people are just incurable matchmakers). Women, whether single or coupled, often don’t have to option not to work, but that’s an economic pressure, not a gendered one.
So where does this leave the men? Just as women need to go beyond the role of Homemaker and learn to look after themselves financially, men need to be more than just the Breadwinner and learn to use a breadmaker.
For all the men who feel threatened or blindsided or side-lined that all this is happening without their consent, I invite them to look up ‘Irony’ at dictionary.com. And while you’re there, look up consent.
So today, Women have a day of recognition. Which is fine, in it’s limited way. It also highlights the fact that men had the other 364 days. We’ve given Women a day, but not equal pay, equal career opportunities, equal justice, or even bodily autonomy. But we have come a long way in that we know we deserve these things, and have stopped asking politely for them. We are Demanding them as our rights.
We can be People, not just ladies.
You Speak the truth.