International Women’s Day is a day to remember what women have achieved and what still needs to be achieved but, increasingly, it’s becoming about what the famous female has achieved. Events and panels speakers are crammed full of, well, the well known woman who is at the top of her profession.
Minions like me turn up to these events and are force-fed stories verging on the remake of a Disney film. I call these the ‘Cinderella’ stories. A famous celebrity/author/singer talks about her life and how she managed to beat the odds. I sit there trying to work out how it all relates to my fairly ordinary life.
The answer always evades me because most women are still subject to the power structures in society that are, both, man-made and man run.
A panel of self-congratulating women whom I have to pay quite a lot of money to listen to just doesn’t cut it anymore. Hearing a subjective tale of success from a woman who has made it doesn’t resonate. I suspect that many women find the same but keep going to International Women’s Day celebration because, well, that’s what you do.
For the first time this year I hardly marked the day. In previous years I have held events myself on topics such as racism. Something felt different this year. I put it down to the rise of populism aided by world leaders like Donald Trump who pay no regard to women’s rights.
While women still face domestic abuse and have no refuge centres to escape to it doesn’t feel like a triumphant day.
When misogynistic jokes like the one below do the rounds on International Women’s Day the struggle for equal treatment and recognition feels all the more urgent and real.
In a perverse way International Women’s Day seems to have become a get-out clause for normal patriarchal practices. In 2018, a new brand of beer aimed at women was launched. I can’t ever see beer being able to help me navigate inbuilt racial and ageist prejudices against someone like me, for instance. Don’t mistake Corporate capitalism for a feminist fight.
The fight is an everyday one. It is a fight that involves various structures like the sisterhood, the state being linked to a recognition of what women really need.
Mary McIntosh, a feminist sociologist, wrote extensively about the critical relationship between being a woman and the welfare state. She said, “Feminists have never been for very long attracted to purely anti-statist positions. Such utopian individualism (or even small scale collectivism) is a possible dream for men who can envisage a world of self-supporting able-bodied people. But women are usually concerned with how the other three-quarters live. They have argued for new forms of interdependence based in the community and not in the family, and these necessarily involve the state at one level or another.”
Listening to individual stories of wealth and fame attainment is a subjective tale of personal success if it does not tear down barriers for all women.