A Few (Belated) Thoughts for Women’s Day

As published on The Daily Dord: https://goo.gl/W7tGMP

Originally a Facebook post that I was too timid to share.

I’ve usually taken Women’s Day as given, but can’t help but wonder how best to spend it?

Is it a day of celebration? If so, a celebration of what? Women’s rights? This would be patronizing to say the least: you can’t possibly tell a woman, in 2017, to celebrate or be thankful that she can vote, work or study. If so, hope you’re well…Donald.

Better, then, to instead celebrate those who brought us to where we are: women such as the Suffragettes, Rosa Parks or Savitribai Phule, women such as Judith Butler, Catherine MacKinnon, and all others who, through the academy, inspire progressive thought. And of course, all women- in a world like ours, they are the ones who, almost everyday, are challenged socially, professionally, morally, even existentially. And always unnecessarily.

Better even, to reflect (more than you normally do- we should all reflect frequently about gender issues as they do, after all, affect all of us) upon what the future holds. Remembering yesterday’s pioneers is not nearly as important as creating tomorrow’s pioneers. And the first step towards this is to radically challenge our society’s ideals of what it means to be a woman.

So, for example, what exactly do we mean by ‘womanhood’ in a world that (thankfully) challenges gender norms, masculinity, femininity and so on? A strict black-and-white ideal of womanhood is counterproductive and regressive, because it doesn’t account for the identities of those who are transgender, intersex, non-binary, and so on. Worse, it forgets that ‘womanhood’, in the cis-feminine sense of the word, is itself articulated in many different ways, both across and within cultural contexts.

And womanhood is just one case- we must radically challenge a lot of other things. Take labor, for example. Why is it that a gender pay gap still exists today? Or that some jobs (e.g. nursing, flight stewards) are considered ‘essentially’ feminine, while others (which, by a strange coincidence, also happen to pay more, e.g. trading stocks) ‘essentially’ masculine? And I’d go even one step further: why is it considered a joke to even entertain the possibility that domestic work (e.g. housekeeping, raising children), again ‘traditionally’ feminine, could (or should) be incentivized to some degree?

But I personally feel that none of this really matters if Women’s Day doesn’t inspire action. Everyone can and must do something, even if it’s just exploring how power, work, body language, sexuality etc. is attributed differently to different genders. This can be as simple as seeing how men and women act differently in public (e.g. the tube, lectures, seminars). Change is mysterious- no one ever knows where it comes from. Which is to say, anything that makes for a more egalitarian world, a world that celebrates the infinitely varying experiences of women, is something that adds value.

A few final thoughts: based on all this, I really hope that the way we celebrate Women’s Day evolves in the near future so that more people celebrate it actively and in a way that acknowledges and pays homage to the experiences of all those who identify as women, to any extent.

And to speak of how I’ll personally contribute, well, writing all this seems to be a good start. Beyond this, I’m promising myself to understand the subjective experiences of women in London for as long as I’m here. I already do this through research and will soon do so first-hand when I begin work. Lastly, I hope to explore how any academic works I complete can help pave the way towards a more equal world. After all, that’s what I’m best at.

Image Credits (top to bottom):

Georgia O’Keefe, ‘Sky Above Clouds III’:https://uploads7.wikiart.org/images/georgia-o-keeffe/sky-above-clouds-iii.jpg

Frida Kahlo, ‘The Wounded Deer’:http://everypainterpaintshimself.com/article_images_new/Kahlo.Deer.1946.x1Detail.jpg