Women’s day: sham or significant?

by Shruti kamat on March 8, 2013

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What is Women’s Day to you? Sham or Significant.

Two of IndiaBookStore’s writers give their points of view. What do you think?

Do something first. Have a ‘day’ later. – Shruti Kamat’s voice

It’s that time of the year again- when we are constantly reminded of the need to respect women, when our television screens telecast advertisements on the achievements of women in various fields, when our inboxes are inundated with messages on how women should be treated, when Facebook updates and tweets propagate the strength of women and how it is a boon to be born as one. Issues like female infanticide, domestic violence, sexual abuse and other gender-based crimes come to the fore… only to be conveniently forgotten the next day.

While the intention behind an International Women’s Day is definitely positive and progressive, it is slowly descending into an annual sham of an event. The day today is just another occasion for the urban man and woman to celebrate and for florists and gift shops to reap some profits. Meanwhile, the woman who could really do with some of the changes that are advocated on this day, remains untouched by it all and the man, who needs to adopt all these ideas in his behavior, ignores it all. How then, is a Women’s day of any significance?

India today is going through an overwhelming wave of protest against misogyny and violence against women. An inherent system of patriarchy that breeds discrimination against women is gradually being targeted. Why then, do we need to designate the 8th of March to take progressive steps every year? Why do we need one particular day to talk about the issues faced by women? Change has to be brought, in our minds, in our thoughts, in our actions. The ideas that a Women’s day chooses to propagate needs to penetrate the boundaries of this one day and become a part of us all. Women’s day today only serves to fodder the commercialization of the concerns of women. What women need is equality, not exclusivity. The celebrated African-American novelist Gloria Naylor aptly said- “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” They are people, like men are and they do not need a day to determine their strength and ability. The day we do not need the designation of this one day in the year for women, we will achieve real victory.

Days, Voices, Change – Mukta Raut’s voice

Last evening, I was at a club with a friend. While we relished our drinks, my friend asked, “Why don’t men in Hindi movies have come-backs?”

“What?”

“Yeah. Think about it. Sridevi has a ‘come-back.’ Sushmita Sen has a ‘come-back.’ Madhuri Dixit has a ‘come-back.’ But Hrithik Roshan doesn’t have one…and the dude comes in films every two years…and usually after a flop. Why aren’t his films called “come-backs”?

I made some noises on how it was not the same thing. The other actresses were gone for a lot longer. So, that kind of a re-launch as ‘New and Improved was important’, etc. But she brushed me aside and said, “Leave it! Let’s toast to a healthy International Women’s Day!”

Clink.

The niggling doubt, that I did not voice, was perhaps this: could it be that Hrithik doesn’t need a come-back because he’s a…a… man? And men are supposed to be in perpetuity (at least in this country). They aren’t going anywhere. Their place is safe. Women, on the other hand, are dispensable. They can lose their place and point in society so quickly. Before the great awakening on female infanticide, we had many years of female fetuses being wiped off with a callous nonchalance. Is that why women need a stronger “Me too!” shout?

Now, we were Indian women of a highly privileged segment, drinking at a club and discussing movie stars. We weren’t, at that moment, raging against a feudal system in a village or petitioning against marginalization in urban spaces. So, the clinking of glasses and the cheer of “Happy Women’s Day!” may seem trivial. It’s easy, therefore, to dismiss such women and such talk as fluff. And it is precisely because of this easy dismissal of any dialogue related to (and by) women that I think International Women’s Day is important.

For one thing, it is not an ‘event’ or a ‘holiday’ marked out by a political party or a particular corporate. It’s a United Nation initiative that has been observed for a 100 years now. There is a historicity and universality to this day that makes it much, much more than a marketing gimmick. Shame, silence, suffering, and the overcoming of it has not just been the story of women in India. It’s been a story of women everywhere. 8th of March comes with a large legacy. (For a brief overview, here’s a great site: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp.)

Let’s not confuse the mess of marketing with the significance of the message.

I see 8th of March more as a ‘signpost’, rather than a day. To me, it marks a direction in which we, as a gender, as a world, as a civilization, are headed. The day is when we pause and reflect: How do we get there faster?

Written by Shruti kamat

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