By Aditi Annapurna:
I felt the need to make it clear from the beginning of this post that I am a Feminist, for I think of this declaration as a Disclaimer of sorts, that yes, this piece is going to be filled with the “biases” and value judgements that Feminists like me are famously known for, that this serves to be deemed “impure” for the fact that it brims with opinion and ideology that makes all the difference between Neutrality and Bias. However, more than a feminist, I write this article as a Human Being, as a person with a conscience, an inner being that envisions a world without discriminations of any form or manner. I write this article as a woman who feels for the years of exploitation that women of the world have undergone due to social stereotypes and gender roles.
In the answer to this statement, there exists a long-stretching, historical explanation, one that spans many decades and centuries of exploitation. Today’s youth, and this refers to any woman or man that happens to be reading this post is not very aware of the kind of treatment women of the world have been subjected to, and this can be due to a variety of reasons, one of them being the fact that the feminist movements in the recent past have been able to achieve and bring about great changes to society that have obliterated the very apparent differences in treatment that the Female Gender was earlier unfortunate to experience. From the suffocation that women endured at being restricted to the confines of their homes, where their Husband and Children were the only things that could mattered to them to the moments of hysteria that they very-embarrassingly exhibited in public places as a result of years of suppression, thus amounting to unrest showing itself in its ugliest and most socially-inappropriate forms, women have had an ugly history of discrimination of being subjugated to various forms of suppression.
Sure, today, women enjoy opportunities to embark on and develop a career for themselves, maybe become as advanced in their fields as their male counterparts, but a few decades before today, things weren’t as easy for The Common Woman. And it is to commemorate, to serve as an observance of dignity and gravity, this very struggle towards Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women, that International Women’s Day possesses significance in. This is more than just a day’s practice — while March 8th does celebrate the great progress we’ve made in ensuring Equality for Women, it also carries the reflection of the inequalities that persist in society, a quiet acknowledgement of the fact that for every woman who rises beyond boundaries of Society and Gender Constructs, there remains a woman shackled within her traditional roles and responsibilities, for whom Liberty and Freedom is still a distant dream. The International Women’s Day thus symbolises the extent of horizons that women still need to venture unto.
Talking about The Feminist Question, an equally-pertinent issue still remains to be discussed. What does the International Women’s Day mean for Men? After all, “feminism” denotes belief in the social, political and economic equality in both the sexes. However, the question of what this means for the rights of men is rarely discussed. While breaking down social constructs of gender roles relating to Women and what is expected of them is on the rise, we still see many identity roles and often, stereotypes being bestowed upon Men. Many men and women would contend that in the whole process of Women’s Empowerment, the men are being left behind, that men are still considered the primary bread-winners of the family, that Men who sit at home and assume more “domestic” roles are looked down upon as unproductive. That men are still expected to be creatures of emotional restraint, that being emotive about one’s feelings makes less of a Man.
To all these contentions, I respond by saying that even the root of all these social identities is still a perceived hierarchy of Men and “Masculinity” over Women and “Femininity”. Think about it — the reason why men are expected to be the economic heads of the family and are to be less emotive is for the very fact that the mentioned characteristics and traits are thought to be “womanly”. You create a hierarchy of cold rationality and emotional restraint over emotional expressiveness, you create economic roles and contributions as of higher essentiality than more “domestic”, sit-at-home roles, and you’ve created a vicious and rather viscous mould of gender differences. Therefore, only when we realise that there is nothing less-important or insignificant about letting emotions translate on you, that there is nothing trivial a task in taking care of the house and children will we be able to actually break gender roles and boundaries of characteristics of identity. The observance of an International Men’s Day, in this respect, is an equally-important step towards establishing Equal Treatment of Genders.
The International Women’s Day is, unlike what many people may think, an equally-important practice for men as it is for women, for it reinforces the need to problematise existing gender inequalities and work towards a general deconstruction of any forms of “received ideas” relating to what is expected of each gender, and thus serves as a reminder that while a lot has been accomplished in our efforts to do so, a lot still remains to be achieved in making the same opportunities available for all.