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What do we really mean when we celebrate Women’s Day? This post explores why women should have a day dedicated to them – or not.
Occasions call for joyous celebrations. Some occasions are reasons to remember a cause, an incident, a person, or a memory in honor of an act. Some occasions are merely political or imposed. But one occasion has forever confused me. Not Valentine’s day. Not Mother’s/Father’s day. Not the weird subset of unheard-of-musical-instruments celebration day.
What confuses me is Women’s day.
The light hearted people suggest that women have one day for themselves because all the other days belong to the men. Yet, some others say women are special, hence they have a day dedicated to them. Doesn’t matter why we celebrate the day or how we celebrate it.
What confuses me is – what do we celebrate? What is womanhood? The easiest answer in an English textbook would be: the opposite of manhood. Obviously, now I know that it is not the truth. Men and women are members of the same species. Whether or not they are opposite of each other, and complementary, is not so simple. Like every species has a basic purpose of existence, human beings also clearly have a purpose to first survive, and second, procreate. However, unlike other species, human beings have no clearly defined duty for their male and female.
In birds, for example, the female creates, and the male incubates. The female feeds, the male protects. They are complementary, and work as a team. In human beings, however, men and women are complementary only in the physical or biological term. But in any other aspect of life, there is absolutely no clarity on the purpose of their duties.
And no generation or nation has it figured out. If we do not know what men and women stand for, we do not know what manhood or womanhood is. No man or woman has ever known. Let me try to explore.
The first theory of what duties men and women share could be based on how the other species seem to do this. We assume men and women are created complementary. Each has its own defined purpose and each fulfills only that purpose without stepping out of the boundary of the assigned individual purposes. In that case, they distribute the two basic duties of the species. Men take care of survival, women take care of procreation.
All duties are clear. Women create babies, men protect the babies. Women take care of creative arts. Women knit, sew, weave, paint, dance, sing. Men bring money, stability, organization, control. Many of us believe this kind of society worked. But history shows it did not. Because if it did, it should still be in action. But it has collapsed. Why?
Because, some men also paint. Some women were better at organizing. Each of them seemed to have a little instinct for survival and a little for procreation.
Because, some men also paint. Some women were better at organizing. Each of them seemed to have a little instinct for survival and a little for procreation. They started experimenting beyond their defined duties. Society collapsed. Everyone started doing everything.
So now that everyone had started doing everything, then maybe we should shoot down the first theory and move on to the second theory. Male and female of a species have equal duty in supporting survival and procreation. Everyone was indeed equal. A human being was a human being. They had exactly similar abilities, rights, potential and wishes irrespective of being a man or a woman. Excellent. The world was one. But then there was another problem.
Though this idea sounded right, the implementation was flawed. Men and women never considered themselves to be equal.
A man considers a woman to be a second class citizen. She comes after he does. This is true of the noblest of men. Because a human being can’t feel the plight of someone he is not. I can’t ‘feel’ the plight of an African slave. Because I am not. I sympathize and then go back to my life. So does a man.
A woman never considers herself equal. She feels she needs to undermine the men. That is because she feels like an underdog. This is true of the most privileged of women. They are insecure. They feel unequal in spite of being treated so. And so they overarch, over-celebrate themselves, over-prove themselves and just keep running all their lives to prove a point.
Can the woman stop this chase? No. Can she stop being the conventional woman? No. Why? Let me ask you, can you become a cannibal or wear leaves instead of t-shirts or relocate to Antarctica?
And so when people wish me a happy women’s day, I get very confused. Maybe I am thinking about it because I have been born in a female body. And so I ask myself, had I been born male, I wouldn’t have stopped twice to think; just like I don’t know the state of tribal peoples in Madhya Pradesh or how endangered the Tigers in West Bengal are. I don’t relate to problems which don’t affect me immediately.
So coming to my confusion, do we as women celebrate Women’s day to bring to the world’s attention to treat us specially, or differently? Is this Gandhi Jayanthi to commemorate an achievement? Is it a day of the underprivileged to bring up the downtrodden? Is it a birthday to celebrate? What is the purpose?
Do we celebrate recognition, privilege, or being trodden upon? What do we celebrate? Why do we need a day? We need women to have women’s days on all days of the year.
If you ask me, all we need to be is equal. And we are not. However much anyone is going to rally on this fact, let me tell you this was a truth in my life ever since I was born.
If you ask me, all we need to be is equal. And we are not. However much anyone is going to rally on this fact, let me tell you this was a truth in my life ever since I was born. A truth as much as my name is. What is usual for a boy is a privilege for a girl. What is expected for a boy is permission for a girl.
I always worried, and still worry about what I can wear. I guess no boy ever felt conscious about his body parts. I worried about the choice of career. I worried about my safety. I worried and studied doubly hard to have a job, and yet had the fear – what if I couldn’t manage a home with a career. What if my in-laws do not ‘allow’ me to help my parents financially? What if my husband doesn’t like the clothes I wear?
Women are second class citizens. We know it the day we are born. We know it the day we give birth to a baby girl. We know it the day we die. And no man will ever know, want to know, or has to know. He only has to know – don’t treat us better or worse. No chivalry. Only equality. Like Demi Moore says in G.I.Jane, as the first woman in US Navy Seals training. “Don’t treat me like I need concessions or lower standards for passing with grace marks. Let me compete on an equal footing. Treat me equal. That is all I want”.
And don’t blame it on society. Practice equality if you believe in it and if you understand it. Otherwise don’t. But please do not celebrate women’s day. We are as much human as you are.
WE don’t need a day. We need as much and everything you do EVERY DAY not just today.
Pic credit: Oregondot (Used under a CC license)
Prathibha is a cocooned wordsmith in the skin of a technology marketing professional. She hopes
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