International Women’s Day 2021 is around and I am hearing a lot of ‘how should we celebrate Women’s Day?’ I’ve always wondered why women matter only on 8 March every year. I am all for women uplifting women and gender equality, but isn’t that meant for every day? We ought to celebrate the achievement of those who dared to shatter the glass-ceiling and challenged patriarchy, I revere and bow to them but not just on 8 of March. I admire the courage, strength and intelligence of so many wonderful women around me, do I need Women’s day to remind me of their greatness?
We see heavy discounts and offers for women. Social media, television, radio are all ga-ga about women’s day. It’s like your world suddenly lights up and everyone is determined to make you feel special, mostly for commercial reasons. It feels flattering, but I am often like ‘no, thank you!’. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I still think we have a long road ahead when it comes to gender parity and equality. I am reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In again and her statement ‘men still run the world’ hit hard. The truth hurts and I am shell-shocked when I think about the biases and lack of opportunities for women. A 2019 study undertaken through a collaboration between Crunchbase, Him For Her, and Kellogg School of Management reveals that 60% of companies do not have even a single woman on board.
Gender pay gap still isn’t a thing of the past with women earning 81 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2020 as per PayScale’s Gender Pay Gap Report for 2020. This is just one of the double-standards we see for women. I am not delving into the unpaid 24x7 work done by homemakers, incidents of domestic violence and rape, and the additional fear of safety lurking in the mind of every woman whenever she steps out of home (or worse even within the home).
If these weren’t enough, women are also dealing with or succumbing to vanity beauty standards which either body shame you or hit your self-esteem. Levi’s launched an advertisement recently featuring Deepika Padukone, an Indian Film actress. It shows women having fun and swaying to a peppy number. I was concerned when the camera focuses on her derriere while she sways to the music in her skinny jeans. I have always admired Levi’s for its smart advertisements and campaigns targeted at youth. This time they got it all wrong. Why didn’t they break the stereotypes and feature regular women of all sizes? Especially after 2020, it would have struck a chord had they featured women from all walks of life and not just glamorous, figure-perfect celebrities.
I have been pondering a lot on what is and what should be, call it age-related wisdom or the aftermath of not giving a damn ‘because been through 2020’. It’s a mixed feeling! On one hand, I swelled with pride when I saw images of Hima Das, an Indian sprinter, being felicitated and appointed as Deputy Superintendent of Assam Police or Swati Mohan called out for her contribution to NASA's Mars mission. There is no better joy than seeing someone celebrate the achievement of their aspirations and inspiring others with hope to continue pursuing dreams. On the other hand, I was fighting back tears when I saw the bone-chilling video of Ayesha, a young woman, proclaiming love for her husband on camera before she jumped into a river due to dowry issues.
One part of the society is celebrating while the other part is hell-bent on adding to woes for women, let alone solving their troubles and centuries-old concerns. I need no discounts on hair spas or shopping, I don’t want any Women’s Day special pizzas or roses. Rather, I will introspect on the sacrifices made and challenges women around have faced or are facing with a smile. I will feel grateful for all my wins and take a moment to look back at what I wanted and what I have achieved. At work, I will support my colleagues and motivate them to aspire higher. Most importantly, I will pat myself for the person I am becoming and for all my small victories, be it making it through a rough workweek, reading a book or consciously eating healthy. And I will continue doing these throughout the year.
Like every year on 8 March, this year too I will smile when someone wishes me and watch all the Women’s day programs at work and the content on social media which will have intriguing success stories of women and other inspiring posts on inclusiveness and equality. I am especially curious about health tips and well-being remedies from ace nutritionist Mansi Chaudhary. I loved her tips on Bulleting Bytes’ debut podcast and her second podcast is launching on 8 March. So, I will keep aside my skepticism for Women’s Day and will watch out for this since a healthy body is a lifelong companion.
PS - It took me four drafts to structure my thoughts on Women’s Day, I am still feeling a bit perplexed but who cares. Nevertheless, celebrate YOU and your goof-ups and victories daily :).
Photo by Valentina Conde on Unsplash