March 08, 2014

A Day for Half the World

SO IT'S INTERNATIONAL Women's Day. The world’s 103rd, if slightly differing records are to be believed. On this day, your neighbourhood beauty parlor will throw in a paraffin manicure free with your hairstyle, and you’ll be bombarded with advertising that has suddenly woken up to the “celebration of women”. (You’ll be spared swathes of pink, hopefully, since Valentine’s Day breezed by a mere 3 weeks ago.) Google has already put up a rockstar doodle, showcasing our many faces as women around the world. We even get our very own Wikipedia entry, educating us on the significance of the day! (Insert whooping sound.)

24 hours for 3 billion people.

Let this smack you across the face and settle into your system.

That’s how far we’ve gotten, ladies.

1 day of 365 for:

  -representing 49.6 % of the world’s population -working two-thirds of the world's working hours, -producing half of the world's food and, in return, -making 77 cents to a man’s dollar in even a “developed” country like America -earning only 10% of the world's income, and -owning less than one percent of the world's property*

And all this only if a woman first makes it through the vaginal canal, past infancy, and into adulthood. Bonus points for a safe environment, the availability of adequate food and hygienic toilets, and the dazzling privilege that is an education.

We are to be appropriately grateful. We are to be suitably sensible. Socially submissive, kinship-compliant, undersexual, hyperwilling to please. Defined by our relationships.  Hemmed in by ceilings. Controlled by our idols. Our virtue strategically planted in our vaginas. Our bodies deployed as political minefields. We emulate men if we are to succeed. We manipulate through passive-aggression because it hasn’t occurred to so many of us to openly yank power off that plate. Of course we’re not uniformly subjugated.  We have been required to wrest patriarchal bonds like Superwomen smashing a chain-link fence. But in every rise of a neighborhood auntie’s eyebrow, in every seemingly innocuous question about marital choices and last names and keeping home, patriarchy lurks, now camouflaged and morphed, but deceptively robust and alive.

Many wonderful organizations pushing for gender change and empowerment will use this day to highlight how much more needs to be done. Because suddenly, for this one measly day, everybody is actually listening. And even as you consider availing of that pressure cooker discount or the latest commercial scheme to exalt our gender, promise your little corner of the planet this:

Claim that calendar. Sprawl across its weeks. Amplify our triumphs to its months, so as the years roll by, we won’t be mere statistics, savvy marketing sitting ducks, and victims in our own narratives.

For those who still question the need for feminism, or believe we’re in a post-feminist world, take a long, hard look at the other 364 spaces on the calendar that are filled with injustices against the sisterhood, a studied silence among the most treacherous. Watch who lives in those slots of gender and class privilege. Delve into their stories so you can hear what is not being said.

Claim chunks of time from all parts of the calendar. Pencil in your plans and ambitions on both sides of March 8th. Fuel your power. Drive them to fruition. 

You are more than a day.

You are more than your fate.

You are HALF THE WORLD.

~

 * Data source: Introduction to challenges in achieving gender equality

About: Dilnavaz Bamboat

Dilnavaz Bamboat manages communications and social media for a Silicon Valley non-profit. She is part of the editorial team at Ultra Violet and takes care of the section on Diaspora. She is also a writer and editor at IDEX, India Currents magazine, and Women's Web, and a founder member of India Helps, a volunteer network for victims of disasters. Originally from Bombay, she has shuttled between India and the United States for the last 12 years and now lives in Silicon Valley with her spouse. Singing, history, and red velvet cupcakes make her happy.

3 comments to A Day for Half the World

  • This did smack me across the face
    Indeed, ’tis a dirty disgrace
    We should spare a thought
    For the shes who’ve got
    Of privilege or pelf, not a trace!

  • Kofi

    Hi Dilnavaz,

    Thanks for this great piece. As I read it I was reminded of a story that constantly reminds me of the struggle women go through every day.

    Even though I have 4 siblings, I mostly grew up with my sister. She’s the one who I blame for my empathy, willingness to cry (in solitude) and great listening ability. **stops patting self on back**

    Anyways – the point is we are close so she was able to confide in me her personal story years ago.

    She met her husband while studying abroad to be a dentist. Her big dream was always to come back home and open a dentist’s office so she could practice her craft. Well – after she got married, this person that she thought was liberal all of a sudden flipped to be conservative christian. With that came all the predefined gender roles – no working, stay at home with kids, don’t talk to other men etc. etc. The hardest for her to swallow though was the no working. Here she was, after working hard and spending years in school and she couldn’t even practice her craft.

    I do remember her fighting back – but she got no support from her siblings, or my parents – because that was a gender role that was just simply accepted by all – plus – if you are lucky to have a man say “Stay at home – I will do all the work” you should be happy – right?

    To be fair he does have an great paying job and he never verbally or physically abused her. And now, years later, she says she’s happy she didn’t have to work but I can’t help but think that somewhere deep inside there is unfulfilled emptiness that she feels. I can’t help but wonder how crazy I’d be if it was I who was “expected” to only care, cook and love – and nothing else.

    I wonder how many women have had to give up their dreams – and I wonder how much better our developing nations would be if they could all give back to the nation they love so much.

  • Dilnavaz Bamboat

    Aunty G: I think more than a thought is needed, but let’s start with that. :)

    Kofi: Thank you for sharing this deeply personal comment, Kofi. Your sister’s story is sad, made sadder by the fact that it is hardly atypical. I feel we need to check ourselves when we say things like “At least he never abused her” like it’s some sort of achievement on the man’s part! Your last line resonated with me: “I wonder how much better our developing nations would be if they could all give back to the nation they love so much.”

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