International Women’s Day!

“Violence against women has yet to receive the priority attention and resources needed at all levels to tackle it with the seriousness and visibility necessary.”

UN Secretary-General’s in-depth study on violence against women (2006) (A/61/122/Add.1)

Before we reach another consensus on violence against women, let us examine the existing differences. For, whereas it is far easier (because it is pacifying) to share the knowledge that violence against women continues to exist, it is rather discomforting (because it is agitating) to throw lights on why it is so.

Like every year, academic and administrative reports of all kinds will be generated to commemorate March 8. After all, since we have a non-profit United Nations and we have corporate profiteers, we will eventually need to reach a consensus on issues such as violence against women. And amidst the thousands of articles and hundreds of televised tear-jerkers we will encounter in the coming month, the information overload would have done the damage, if we do not stay alert about few conditions that need addressing:

1. Suspect the Messengers:
The kinds of messages about women may be misgivings. Indeed, most channels that provide news about women’s progress and violence are owned and controlled by men. Whereas it is undoubtedly true that many men are truly understanding of their gender positions and many women are too willing to play the assigned roles, it is still wise to suspect the men in the month of IWD message boards.

2. Women’s Rights are Universal Rights: Some will talk about women’s rights as a domain that applies to women only. Indeed, women’s rights are women’s prerogative only as a practice, but everyone’s concern as a scope. Just like they fool us by writing different history books for African-Americans, and the Americans as though American history does not include the minorities, it is highly suspect that women’s rights are not matter of concern for men.

3. Workplace for women vs Women for workplace:
Most arguments about women’s rights focus on necessities to prepare the women for the workplace. Its like Amartya Sen saying that the question should not be if democracy is good for a country, but it should be directed towards making the country good for a democracy. Well, frankly speaking, he could be wrong. Just as JFK was while demanding that people give to the country without asking what the country can do for them. That’s the populist tone. The reality is women don’t need to be prepared for workplace. Workplaces need to be geared to serve women.

4. International Woman has a meaning:
It means, women identify with each other across different boundaries. This identification has an undertone: that is, they accept the differences across cultures. To be truly international means understanding that there are differences across nations, and hence across women from different nations. There is no place for homogenization of women as one entity. So yes, White women are different from Black women are different from Asian women are different from Latina women are different from Muslim women are different from Hindu women are different from Swahili-speaking women who are different from Greek women. Women have different social locations among themselves, and hence understanding them holds the key. Let no one lead us into an essentialist notion of women’s problem. Different women face oppressions of different nature. The similarity is the most striking: that women are oppressed simply because they are women.

5. Are women human?: MacKinnon’s question is still valid. No amount of cultural excuses (from first world pornography to third world dowry) makes all women full human today. Ruling classes of the world still consider women as accessories to either their power ladder, or to their social justice tokenism. Their domestic adornment or cheap working class market value. Their television anchoring revenue system or their make-up kit industry. Just as Aishwarya Rai cannot be allowed to cry in public because Revlon will probably run into losses, Tamara MaidenName cannot challenge her greedy boss for uneven wages because he will merely retaliate.

International Women’s Day must not be allowed to promote card and gifts companies to indulge in exhibitionism of annual love to the mothers and sisters and wives and friends. It is rather a day to remind all of us in the world that a separate battle is on. This one is a battle of all. A battle that is waged by the true majority of the world, the women. A battle, that addresses the core inconsistencies of capitalism.

Originally written for Womens Rights Blog.


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