Women’s Day Messages On Social Media: Pink, Patronising, And Problematic

Every Women's Day we are inundated with a deluge of patronising 'happy women's day' messages glorifying the 'Indian woman'. This is deeply damaging to us.

Women’s day is over and I am on a clean-up drive, deleting the countless posters & videos that flooded social media on that day. Most of them coloured pink had acronyms, poems on women, painting a rosy picture (quite literally with red hearts and flowers).

Are these posters really celebrating women?

Incidentally post women’s day celebrations there has been back-to-back incidents attacking women.  A girl was harassed during holi festival and another girl in UP was raped. Are women’s day celebrations with their messaging really conveying what is actually needed to be conveyed?

Why is International women’s day celebrated?

It is a day celebrating the social, economic and political achievements of women for achieving which, women had to revolt in the 18th and 19th century. Focus is on gender equality and awareness on the following women’s rights:

  • reproductive rights (my body my decision),
  • right to opinion and expression,
  • right to safety, stop violence and abuse
  • right to equal opportunities,
  • right to equal pay,
  • representation in various fields,

In summation- agency, autonomy & right to choose.

According to the United Nations – this day marks a call to action for accelerating the still existing gender parity. Are we, as a collective society, moving towards accelerating the parities? Or are we through these pink posters with their messaging pushing women further in to disparity? Are we raising awareness about discrimination against women, their rights and promote global support to women in the right way?

Basic appearance of the posters and what is wrong with them

Emphasis on the colour pink with flowers, butterflies, sequins. Many carry the outline of the so called “feminine frame” –finely chiselled features, long flowing hair and a body that screams of the conventional beauty standards that we are trying to get rid of. Pink for girls became prominent as society imposed it as the “girly” colour. The clothing industry markets it widely and makes a lot of money. If you are a girl you have to like pink!! No choice there! So, on women’s day we are promoting problematic gender norms and conformity vide colour and objects. Even the posters that signify liberation for eg: solo trips, all woman trips etc are in pink!

The problematic messaging on those posters

No relation is complete without a woman in this world. She plays the role of ‘loving mom’..’caring sister..’an understanding wife’ & ‘lovable daughter’. You have everything in you that is why the world is celebrating you.

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Women are the wheel of family, Ocean of knowledge, Mirror of children, Address of love, Navigator of life boat.

Our world would mean nothing if there were no women in it. Their courage, tenderness and ability to move through life while conquering challenges amazes every day.

No matter if it takes a while, you handle every responsibility with a smile.

She has many roles to play – Mother, sister, wife, friend and more.

Women weren’t created to do everything a man can do. Women were created to do everything a man can’t do

W – wonderful wife, O-Outstanding friend, M-Marvelous daughter, A- Adorable sister, N- nurturing mother

She is the symbol of love, pillar of strength, an example of sacrifice, one who guides you, stands behind you, she is the one without whom you cannot imagine your life…she is the woman in your life!

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.

The quintessential Indian goddess with several hands, each hand holding a baby, laptop, mop, spatula & weights.

Why are these a problem?

Reinforcing stereotypes about women

These messages continue to bracket women in to the stereotypes cementing women in to the domestic role.

Glorification as a carrot to compensate for no real power?

Glorify her as role as primary care-givers convincing her that no matter how educated, talented and aspirational she is, her first priority is homemaking and family. As a result, many have been forced out of paid labour. How is it right to expect a woman to give up on a career in the field she studied really hard. She might be more qualified & talented than the man yet she is the chosen one!

Gender gap in labour force participation leading to lower financial independence

It is a proven fact that countries that have less women labour force participation are not economically sound. Labour participation by the “working demography” of a country irrespective of their gender is necessary for a country to thrive. At the same time maintaining a robust family structure is also equally important to a society.

Raising the upcoming generation in to responsible aware citizens is a responsibility of a father as well as mother. Equality and fairness can be achieved vide a cultural & social change in public policy. There has to be a paradigm shift in the culture, civil society, government, businesses.

Only valued as a mother, daughter, sister, wife, etc.

Her identity is restricted to the relationships she has, that of a loving mother, caring sister, affectionate daughter. Her individuality just does not matter.

Oh, Sacrifice!

She is glorified as a sacrificial epitome.

Glorifying those ‘feminine’ qualities which means anything else is taboo

She is being told that she is sensitive, tender and is the one who teaches men what is sharing and caring. No wonder even in the 21st century women are still under represented in sports, politics, police force etc.

Shabhash Mithu, one of the recent Hindi movies on the Indian cricket female captain Mithali Raj, had a scene where a friend of Mithila Raj who showed interest in playing cricket and other categorised as “male oriented games” is enrolled forcefully in a ‘dance class’, a feminine activity supposedly identified by society. Thus stifling the interest, talent and aspirations of women who want to take up sports!

The unwanted, forced upon her burden of being a ‘superwoman’

Celebrating women as the ‘multi-tasker’ who works outside as well as manages household duties and care-giving. What better day, than women’s day to tell women that they are the epitome of the Indian goddess with several hands which in turn over stresses her and forces her out of paid labour as according to society, housework is her job which she cannot quit from.

It is indeed a trap

A trap in the garb of glorified pictures, colours and poetic messages. A deep psychological trope restricting women from spreading their wings. Generations of patriarchy and sexist thinking makes her think that nothing is wrong with the messaging as she simply passes around these messages or perhaps the women all over have probably given up on the world.

There are many women who are of the opinion that women don’t need these external validations and their self worth is their validation. There is no need for a women’s day. Indeed, women have come a long way shattering barriers and we do salute their achievements in all walks of life be it sports, business, politics, corporate or even homemaking. But what we need is to  eradicate the barriers, the obstacles. Women should not be deprived of personal autonomy. She has the right to choose.  Hence there is a need for validation and there should be a women’s day. But the messaging should be right.

Misogynistic disinformation and misinformation flourish on social media platforms.” an apt statement made by UN secretary – general to the women’s commission ahead of women’s day.

The underlying messages in these posters actually accentuate inequality in a glorified way

“Gender equality is growing more distant. On the current track, UN Women puts it 300 years away.” As quoted by UN secretary – general .

We can’t take that long. We need to achieve it fast. To start with, we need to do away with these stereotypical pink posters and their messaging!

Images source: twitter

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About the Author

Rekha Sriram

During the emergency in India when life was fraught with tension, I was born, a female child. After a long stint of 15 years in the corporate world in the HR field, I got involved read more...

3 Posts | 10,912 Views

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