We Shouldn't Need Women's Day, But We Do

We Shouldn't Need Women's Day, But We Do

Activists protest the Trump administration and rally for women's rights during a march to honor International Woman's Day on March 8, 2017 in Washington, DC.

SourceBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

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Pooja Bhatia

Pooja Bhatia

Pooja Bhatia is an OZY editor and writer. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Economist, and was once the mango-eating champion of Port-au-Prince.

Pooja Bhatia is OZY’s former deputy editor, and her column, The Long Arc, weaves together the threads of politics, culture and history.

There is something inherently ridiculous about the secular global holiday. Consider the “International Day of Happiness,” which the U.N. has set for March 20. Are the other 364 days of the year meant to be unhappy, or so-so, or ecstatic or melancholy?

(No, clearly: Most of the other 364 days are already taken, in manufactured observances of asteroids, rabies, the radio, meteorology, family remittances…)

International Women’s Day is, of course, different than the average secular global holiday. For starters, it probably would not make George Orwell puke. Older than the U.N., as well as the League of Nations and the world war that led to their creation, the observance grew out of women’s marches and strikes for better working conditions, equal pay and suffrage. The struggle it commemorates continues.

We redeemed ourselves a bit in December, with Alabama women leading the charge against notorious seducer of teenage mallrats Roy Moore.

In developing nations, whose governments tend to make women’s progress more of a priority than the United States’ does, it’s not uncommon for men to send women small gifts, cards and text messages conveying their wishes for the occasion. With such tokens, men intend to communicate their respect for women in general and their status as allies; or they intend to hit on the recipients; and often both.

In the United States, meanwhile, Women’s Day provides sponsorship opportunities for multinational corporations, as well as excuses for companies to launch new consumer products. This may seem strange, given the day’s socialist roots, but I guess that’s what passes for progress in the era of you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby late capitalism. Still, a note for Mattel: If you can’t give Frida Kahlo Barbie an anatomically possible body, at least give her a proper unibrow.

I do wish we didn’t need a day devoted to women’s rights and equality. In fact, I would happily give up March 8 for another International Day of Cheese. But then, I wish we hadn’t spent the past five months waking up to the news that yet another once-beloved actor/writer/comedian/senator/doctor/newsman had masturbated on or near a woman, threatened her with career death if she didn’t have sex with him, hit on an intern while she was seeking career advice, molested a young athlete in the examination room, used a remote to lock an office door so he could uninterruptedly assault an employee, or otherwise used his power to denigrate, exploit or f*ck a woman over.

But we did live in that terror, and we do need a day devoted to women’s rights and equality. We also need the year’s other 364 days. Sorry, asteroids.

Herewith, an entirely subjective, U.S.-focused rundown on the progress we’ve made as a gender on the aims that those crazy socialists had back in the day of your grandma’s grandma.

Suffrage: Got it, formally, though with the usual caveats: gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc. American women tend to vote at higher rates than men, in fact, but Election Day should still be a federal holiday.

There’s a separate question of whether we’re using the franchise to vote in the right people. Seriously: Some 41 percent of American women who voted in the 2016 election voted for President “When You’re a Star, They Let You Do It.” Boo, thanks and also WTF. We redeemed ourselves a bit in December, with Alabama women leading the charge against notorious seducer of teenage mall rats Roy Moore.

Equal Pay: On average, we’re stuck at 82 cents on the dollar for the same work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is way better than the penny actress Michelle Williams apparently gets on co-star Mark Wahlberg’s dollar.

But many fewer women are able to do the same kind of high-paying work as men. As of December, just 26 of America’s top 500 companies had a female CEO; that’s about 5 percent. And only about 6 percent of women were venture capitalists. That almost makes the percentage of female directors of top Hollywood films (11) look good.

Equal Line Count: In every movie that has won an Academy Award for Best Picture since 1991, the male characters speak more than the female ones. Waaaaaay more, according to an analysis by the BBC. This year, the Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water, featured a strong, memorable female protagonist … who was mute and therefore spoke no lines at all.

The F-Word: Feminism is the belief that women and men deserve equal rights and opportunities. It boggles my mind that many conservative women reject the word.

Speaking of Solidarity: It’s taken Monica Lewinsky 20 years to publicly reckon with the fact that Bill Clinton abused his power when she was an intern in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, a chorus of younger women — toddlers when Lewinsky’s ordeal began — see abuse, and threats of it, in bad dates, boorish bosses and ungainly male behavior.

Internal divides are nothing new in feminism, of course. Even the suffragettes faced opposition from their own sisters, and were held back by it. Back in 1909, one of them, a Mrs. William Force Scott (The New York Times’ account referred to her by her husband’s name, naturally), argued that a new, all-woman political party would be a force “more dangerous than labor against capital.”

An all-women party — come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea.

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