Just like how Mother’s Day is now a commercialized mutation of its original roots—a daughter looking to honor her late mother by continuing her work in peace activism and improving public health—Women’s Day has been hijacked by performative sentiments on social media. From the often life-endangering groundwork that the women of the suffragette movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Gabriela, and so many other activist groups did to push for social change throughout history, IWD is now more often than not a show of hashtagging the holiday on Facebook posts and putting up photos of PR-friendly feminists on Instagram.
By themselves, these social media celebrations are all right. But in the greater context of how the fight for gender equity is nowhere near halfway done, when lives of girls and women—and that includes trans women—all over the world remain in danger due to sexist fundamentalist beliefs, they come off hollow, especially when it’s the most that we’d do, we who have benefitted from the fight that the older generations of women had waged.
It’s especially shameless how some capitalist companies swoop in and make patronizing gestures to celebrate womanhood. Look at McDonald’s flipping its M to a W for one whole day last March 8. Or KFC introducing us to Colonel Sander’s wife Claudia. These were marketing strategies that celebrated mere stand-ins for women—a letter and a fictional character—instead of the actual (unpaid and overworked) women that these global companies employ.
When Chris Brown, certified woman-beater, misogynist, and all-around loser, feels free enough to chime in with his own IWD shout out, you know there’s a whole lot more work to be done.
What could we do? That’s a question I also grapple with constantly. At 35, I’ve become aware that the liberation of women isn’t just about my own liberation. Take choice feminism, for example: It’s a very individualistic approach to feminism, which often makes it an attractive gateway for some young women to learn about the feminist movement. Yet in its focus on a woman’s individual, often mundane choices—Makeup or no? Do I shave my legs today or not? Do I feel like wearing a short skirt?—it ignores broader socioeconomic inequalities and the long-established effects of patriarchal socialization. As I’ve come to understand, not all choices open to women are feminist choices. A lot of them are just limiting and pre-defined reinforcements of what society has traditionally deemed femininity to be. And the skirmish over these individualistic choices can get even the more privileged and educated women among us bogged down with the details, whereas other women in the world are without the option of having to make any of these choices for themselves because they’re literally simply trying to survive day by day.
What I know is that money talks. It could be highly uncomfortable, but the more we try to put our money where our mouth is, the easier it gets to adjust our lifestyles to our principles accordingly. And the more there are of us who financially support businesses that not just preach but practice right and equal pay, maybe more companies would follow suit. Also, passing the mic back (TM Gabrielle Union) to the women who work on the grassroots level and yet remain uncredited for everything they do can help all of our perspectives broaden. After all, it can get pretty myopic to sit around with our women friends who come from more or less the same educational and socio-economic backgrounds, and nod at what each of us are saying. And there’s a lot more to the fight for gender equity than what affects us and our circle of people.
As for the general celebration of womanhood, it shouldn’t just be for a mere 24 hours or a month. It should be an everyday thing, commensurate to the daily work women put in to keep the world—our homes, communities, workplaces, entire industries—running right beside the men. There will definitely be less money- and attention-grabbing gimmicks once the appreciation for women becomes an unasked-for given.
“But men put in the work too! Why is there no International Men’s Day, or Men’s Month? Wah wah wah!” Uh, there is an International Men’s Day, brah. Officially, it’s every Nov. 19th, but with the way the world has been set up, it’s Men’s Day on any day that ends with –y, so y’all can keep it. Save your think pieces for November.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.