It’s so nice to have that one day to feel special, but now that it’s over — almost like when your birthday’s done — it’s back to the usual: questionable safety, navigating a potentially hazardous, sexual harassment-prone city that you live in. Talk is all well and good, but negotiate your spaces carefully, dears — that seems to be the message.
While there’s no question about tokenism, at least IWD gives people (read media) the window to focus on women, entrepreneurs, achievers, women of substance. And the labels do seem get ever-more esoteric every year. I was delighted to meet two friends who were being honoured for their incredible achievements, and it was truly well-deserved recognition.
But look at the labels and how they’ve transformed — there are your power women, your women of substance, your women of wonder, and your women of true or awesome or wonderful wonder. Women of style and substance, and of course all wonder women must be celebrated. It’s a laudable gesture and commitment. But, what about regular women? Women running your household? Women slaving away without a pay cheque? Women watching your kids? Women who get less of a pay cheque than their male peers, but have no shot at media attention? Aren’t we oblivious — given the class privilege we rarely acknowledge? Shouldn’t we be celebrating regular women, who are fighting tremendous odds, every single day in this country, for a shot at a decent, even good life?
But, what about regular women? Women running your household? Women slaving away without a pay cheque?
Maybe that’s too cumbersome. At least Women’s Day sometimes allows the media that window to talk about major issues, like trafficking, domestic violence, acid attacks, and sexual assault. These are issues that continue to make us incredibly uncomfortable, and sometimes, we don’t know how to deal. The reporting either follows a ‘sensational’ case, but forgets about trauma or triggers while the case is going on, rounding up survivors, who are easily forgotten when the news cycle is done. It’s hard not to get cynical, tracking that sort of cycle.
At least Women’s Day sometimes allows the media that window to talk about major issues, like trafficking, domestic violence, acid attacks, and sexual assault.
But except for social media, how to focus on the every-day, rather banal issue of lack of representation? Witness the ‘manels’, finally being called out. Lack of gender diversity in the workplace or boardroom? Wage disparity? Not so much.
‘You just can’t win’, some guys feel. ‘Take me out and shoot me’: I heard some distinguished fellow say words to this effect, on Women’s Day, in a sort of jokey way. (But surely, this one day wasn’t about you, I itched to reply.)
What is it women really want, some wail?
Well, how about equality, for one? The right to equal representation? The right to have a safe environment, same as as anyone else. The right not to be stalked? The right not to have acid thrown and then have reports explain the violence as that done by a “spurned lover”. Rangoli Ranaut’s recent statement on how painful it is — even if you can afford the reconstructive surgery — to recover, should and must grab our attention. The way Laxmi’s campaign did. And yet, more must be done to regulate the sale of acid. Violence of this nature isn’t acceptable.
In this country, as we sit here, having this conversation, we can’t forget what the original point of a Women’s Day was. Part of the labour movement, it was about the struggle for equality, and thus retains its relevance. After all, while we might have the right to vote, we still have a long way to go. The good folks at Raoit have a major point too, about which realities we choose to reflect.
Equally clear, is that there’s no way to talk about gender rights and justice without being inclusive and non-binary, or without looking at all the other struggles that are inherent — and I thank Dr Anita Ghai for articulating this so well— you can’t ignore disability rights, just as you can’t avoid addressing sexual discrimination, caste-based discrimination… And bigotry, by any other name, which may or may not clash with our pink gifts and spa coupons.
Amrita Tripathi is a writer and journalist, currently working on her third novel and doubling up as Editor-at-large, SheThePeople.TV