HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: Women's Day is pointless. There, I said it.
This might be a controversial opinion in some circles, especially from someone like me who considers themselves a feminist. but I think Women’s Day is an annual sad excuse at attempting to push issues that women continue to face daily into mainstream conversation.
First of all, mainstream conversation cannot happen in one day. That is contradictory in its very nature. Mainstream is when ideas, opinions or attitudes towards and about certain things are considered normal and conventional. Mainstream is exactly as it says. It’s main. It’s the principle thought. It’s the majority consensus. It is the chief and chairperson of belief. It is commonplace. Organic. And naturally occurring and accepted in societies by the masses with a small margin who perhaps disagree or differ.
A pair of jeans is mainstream. They’re so mainstream in fact that we don’t even think about them. We just accept that they are part of a the vast canvas of the world with all its dynamic cultures and societies and people accept, care for them and adopt them into the daily workings of life with comfort. Jeans have enjoyed democratised acceptance since the 19th century. That’s over 300 years now and it took at least a quarter of that time for this ordinary garment to penetrate society. Women, however, are still trying to find the same acceptance and rights as a pair of pants in a world that thinks we can attain the “mainstreamness” of our rights in a single day per year.
Women’s Day is pointless, and I can live without it because I live with the issues of being a woman and all the hurdles that surround that, like intersectionalism, every day. I do not need to see another webinar about women talking about women with not a man in sight. I do not need to see post after post on Instagram about phenomenal women and all they have achieved with supporting quotes because I already know these women exist and so do other women. I can guarantee that only women are looking at these posts and those who actually need to change their minds are scrolling right past them, they same way they do on the other 364 days of the year.
One day a year does not the gender pay gap close. One day a year does not the employment inequities change. One day a year does not the percentage of gender-based violence decrease. And one day a year does not the power of politics and political representation sway in the direction of someone other men.
Of course, I support that 9 August is a take-what-we-can-get day, done in the name of taking the concerns mentioned above, among many others, and giving them more airtime and publicity. It’s thematically focussed and I guess that’s cool. Even if people don’t pay attention, the background noise is there. But then again, isn’t always? And shouldn’t that noise be louder every day? What makes this day different that it will change the way people think, listen and how they behave?
We can hope that Women’s Day will be the single day a year that the mainstream “gets it”. They understand why we need to get paid equally to men, why we need better social services and protection, why sexism is a massive problem and they know what feminism actually means. They see the need for more female leaders in the public, political and private sectors and why women’s rights are human rights. But I am so tired of that hope. If you can’t understand at least one of these things on a regular Tuesday at some point in your life, why would you on Women’s Day?
But feelings are not necessarily facts. So while I feel that this day is pointless, let me pour out the facts. Remember how I said jeans have been accepted and mainstream for over 300 years? Well, women have been on this Earth for approximately 200,000 years, and according to the World Economic Forum estimation report that measures change in over 100 countries, the estimate for closing the gender pay gap will take another 108 years on average, and economic and political inequality will only be eradicated in 202 years.
If we try and engage with this timeline as a collective population of all genders for only one day a year for the next say, 200 years, your children will not see gender equality and your children’s children will not see it and their children will not see it too.
But hey, at least everyone can still live in their acceptable pair of jeans.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.