Last week was international women’s day and I largely…ignored it.
I’m not against celebrating all things women but I feel something as gotten very lost along the way.
The endless posts about empowerment, having each other’s backs and companies being ‘proud’ to shout about the number of ‘strong’ women in leadership roles felt fucking patronising to be brutally honest.
Worse than patronising, tokenistic.
And that’s what it feels like it has become, a day of virtue signalling on social media!
Companies seemed to have fallen over themselves to force female employees into pictures that are posted all over twitter extolling these virtuous, brave, strong beings.
You’d be forgiven for thinking some of these women were saints, who do it all and never put foot wrong. It’s like Miss world only minus the swimsuits, I half expected each post to come with the quote “And I really do want world peace” (one for Miss Congeniality fans there).
It’s not what international women’s day is about.
We don’t want to be put put on a pedestal, we don’t want to be viewed through rose tinted glasses as perfect beings, we want equality and that’s still a long way off, something that was highlighted in the most wonderful way.
You see, on international women’s day, a twitter account appeared called ‘Gender pay gap bot’ and it is the most fun I’ve had on twitter in a long time.
The concept was simple, every company that tweeted about IWD (and got lost in a plethora of superlatives about the women employed) found itself quote tweeted with its gender pay gap.
It was glorious!
All this information is publicly available so marketing departments really should have checked out what their employers were really doing for the women the employ before shouting about them from the roof tops. It was a first-class lesson in think before you tweet because of course, many of these companies have eye watering pay gaps.
I’ve thought a lot about IWD over the past week, mainly because for the first time, it didn’t sit right with me.
I started researching its origins and where it came from. It ties back to the suffrage movement in the early 20th century, it’s thought it started in New York, Germany followed suit, it then spread across Europe. It was taken on by socialist movements and celebrated on March 8th.
The feminist movement adopted it in the 1960s it became much more mainstream in 1977 when the United Nations jumped on board.
Once a day of protest and calls for radical change, the west, by and large, now marks the day as a celebration of all thing’s woman.
Great, love it, love being a woman, celebrate it. I’ve celebrated it myself in the past.
My problem though is this…by focussing completely on the celebration side of things, it’s almost like saying ‘job done’ on the trickier issues that IWD was originally about and, as the gender pay gap bot demonstrated, it isn’t job done.
Behind the memes about empowerment, and how great it is to be a woman (and it is) we still don’t have equality.
There’s still a pay gap, we’re still penalised for keeping the human race going, our wombs are still looked at suspiciously when we reach a certain age and want a promotion, there are still terrifying statistics around violence against women, there is still work to be done. That’s IWD should be about and why it is still bloody needed, depressing as that fact is.
I’m not saying don’t celebrate womanhood, what I am saying is can we have some sodding substance behind the platitudes? The theme this year was #breakthebias can we all, because this isn’t just down to women to solve, actually try to do that?
Can we remember why it started, why it is still needed, get angry and then start asking hard questions about equality and gender and demanding a fair deal. We may have come a long way but we aren’t there yet, maybe once we are I won’t sit eye rolling to high heaven at cringey, virtuous company posts every march 8th.
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