Why Women’s Day?

Posted on March 8, 2012 in Specials

By Devika Mittal:

After Valentine’s Day, Women’s day is most debated upon. The need for a special day to celebrate womanhood has been contemplated by a diverse group ranging from kurta-clad intellectuals to male chauvinists. This article would give an insight into the debate, an insight about the celebration in the contemporary world and would explore if there is really a need for a special day.

The intellectuals are not a homogenous group. Some argue that a special day is actually a contradiction to the feminist goal of equality. They would argue for a “man’s day”. This demand for a “man’s day” is popular among many, including male chauvinists. To this, some feminists would retaliate by saying that all other days are actually man’s day. They would argue that Women’s day is important for the ‘empowerment’ of women. It is the celebration of a memory of women uprising and success. It is a hope and it should be remembered and cherished.

Today, Women’s Day is celebrated through seminars, panel discussions and street marches organized by colleges and civil society organizations, mostly in cities. It is celebrated by beauty salons and shops through discounts. It is celebrated through sms messages and facebook statuses. So of course, it is largely an urbane and elite concept. It is ironical as the history of this day goes back to the section of working class women. The nearest it goes rural is when All India Radio announces it in the two-minute news before every programme. I wouldn’t say that women in urban areas or of elite classes are liberated but they are definitely at a better position. But the rural/non-elite side is not the only reason why I, like most others, becomes critical of this day.

I am also very cynical of what I call “over feminisation” which is the other extreme. Over feminisation is the process by which the whole world becomes divided into feminism and male chauvinism or feminism and femininity and all other identities including the human self is dissolved. As I look around, I find 8th march to be another process of over feminisation by ‘intellectuals’ who decide to call themselves ‘feminists’. 8th March would become the most important day in the calendar. All promises against male chauvinism and the gendered society will be made on this day. I would see people writing about how oppressed we (mostly urban elite women) have been, the sacrificed that we have always made and how we should put a stop to it. There would be cases of situational “sisterhood”. Celebrating Women’s day seems to be an obligation.

It all seems like Globalization to me — rich becoming richer and poor remaining unchanged or becoming poorer. Women who are already “liberated” go gaga over this day, proving to any tom, dick and harry about how important this day is, while the underprivileged and the more discriminated section remains unvisited, remembering this day because it might feature as a GK question(this is if they reach the stage for a GK quiz).

But the question remains… Is there a need for a Women’s day? I think there is. Women’s day is, according to me, a celebration of a memory of women’s uprising. It celebrates a spirit and it is important to keep that spirit alive. It is true that this concept is largely an elite and urbane concept but instead of wiping out this day, it is important that we take this spirit to the rural. It is also true that like other festivals, this day is also being commercialized but even in commercialization, the safeguard of the “spirit” is in our hands. Women’s day doesn’t have to be a big affair but it has to be an important affair. It marks a memory and gives a hope.

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