It’s here tomorrow! The day we’ve all been waiting for: International Women’s Day! Get ready to stand awkwardly at the office to receive roses (or mimosas should you be in Italy, or lilies-of-the-valley in case you find yourself in France) from male colleagues to mark the existence of female species. Hallmark has a card, internet is full of related merchandise and every politician has a speech ready (SPOILER ALERT: “we have come a long way, but much more remains to be done for gender equality”), some even going as gung-ho as handing us awards for enduring life as a woman. It’s good to be female this week.
Only three weeks separate Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day and it indeed feels as if the latter has become a circus with a little bit more purpose. As with most things, the initial idea was actually not bad. Russian women gained suffrage on 8 March 1917, making women’s day a big national holiday over there (whereas Americans, never quite satisfied with the default choice, also celebrate the National Proofreading Day and the National Peanut Cluster Day on the 8 March, which makes for a nice buffet of celebratory days in case women are not your thing).
Nothing wrong with awareness-raising, of course. I will root for every demonstration, march and seminar on women’s issues tomorrow. That’s the purpose of the day, and then we’ll move on to the 9 March, which is the International DJ Day (yes that’s DJ as in Disc Jockey), and reply to the fun jokes of male colleagues of the “oh, when is the international men’s day?” -sort (it’s 19 November since you ask. Mark your calendars).
So yes, lots of causes to commemorate. But, and I’m pulling the next sentence out of the cliche factory, none of the pomp and ceremony on the 8 March matters unless we constantly keep an eye on women’s rights. I was a fool for thinking that there is a linear development of gender equality, as in that we could not go backwards. Turns out, we can.
I’ll give you a slightly off-mark and possibly a bit weary example from the olden era: Monica Lewinsky. Twenty years on, her story is as relevant as ever, and you should read her own, updated account in Vanity Fair, by the way. What I’m saying is that very little progress has been made in the power-abusing department, if we are to use the White House as a benchmark. I have tremendous difficulties imagining Trump being impeached for sexual harassment and/or abuse of power (Clinton’s impeachment articles were based on these previous charges): I mean the whole 2016 election was one big referendum of how much people are allowed to hate women – and he aced it.
The good thing is that we don’t have to use the White House as a benchmark – no revolution ever started there. There’s a momentum like never before, and looks like #metoo and its variations are not going anywhere soon. While it’s never a bad idea to be a little bit angry, we want to fight for equality the way that makes others want to join. Just make sure someone’s got your back should you doze off for a moment – a constant eye, remember, a constant eye: we’re not staying woke for nothing.