I don’t celebrate International Women’s Day and I don’t give a toss about the politicians and the politically correct males who – once a year – express their ‘gratitude’ to women ‘for the work they do’. We don’t work so that men can express their misplaced gratitude. We do it because we are half of the human race and that’s what the other half should be doing too if they really want to give women a shout out of ‘gratitude’.
I don’t mind the day being on the calendar, in the same way International Men’s Day – 19 November, in case you didn’t know – is. I simply don’t approve of the way 8 March has been hijacked by politicians and turned by many women’s movements into a day where the focus has shifted almost entirely away from the plight of women who are genuinely oppressed to women in politics and in public life. Quoting the dismal representation of women in the national assembly – which is indeed condemnable – feminist movements in this country – beside the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, I must say – have been spending their entire energy suggesting that more women in politics, quotas and symbolism are the panacea to all the ills women are suffering from and that women have a higher sense of morality than men so public life, with more women, would become more sanitised. Really?
I wonder how many people can look us straight in the eye and tell us that having someone like Marie Claire Monty in parliament fits that rhetoric. The lady sat in parliament for two full years without showing any sign of life. The first time we knew of her existence was when she decided to cross the floor, selling her conscience for a little insignificant position in government, where she will sit, unnoticed until the end of her mandate. The only thing her name will ever be associated with is ratting!
Or maybe someone can make a cogent case for Sandhya Boygah, who, thanks to her party’s generosity with public land, has benefitted from a barachois of 46 hectares, free of charge. In return, she has contributed some pearls to our Hansard about her caesarean section, the physical pain she endured and her friend’s message which she read out in the national assembly. Apart from that very pertinent contribution to the budget speech, she also qualified, on record and on our behalf, the minister of finance as a feminist for reducing the price of gas as ‘women use it for cooking’.
But the two sisterly paragons trumpeted as proof of women’s real progress are by far the speaker of the national assembly and the president of the republic. Both public figures have been women of firsts: They were enviably the first female speaker and president. And, beside their notoriously numerous trips at the expense of the taxpayer, they were both unenviably first to have embroiled the national assembly and the presidency in scandals of alleged nepotism and corruption. And so much for women being less corruptible than men!
Describing the progress women have made, Gloria Steinem says, “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry”. Judging by the recent events in this country, I’d say some women are becoming the men we don’t ever want to marry. So, forgive me for not celebrating. Until the focus of 8 March becomes a disinterested and selfless struggle against all kinds of discrimination, injustice and inequality. For these are the root causes of all the ills of our society and they, naturally, affect more the most vulnerable section of our community – women. These scourges are unlikely to be solved by choosing symbols in selected positions either because they are family members or they belong to a certain ethnic group and bragging about their gender. That is not celebrating women. That is using them! I won’t be part of it.
For more views and in-depth analysis of current issues, subscribe to Weekly for as little as Rs110 a month. Free delivery to your door. Contact us: [email protected]