You can’t avoid them. The WhatsApp forwards for every occasion. They also raise their heads on the Facebook timeline. My Mom said that WhatsApp has made them very cosmopolitan. Now they celebrate everything from Diwali, Holi, Eid, Muharram to Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving! All without much effort. Just forward the images you receive.
Women’s day can’t be far behind. But this is a tricky one. It has become this feel-good, celebrate-women-or-even-womanhood – defined very stereotypically – kind of a day. Fueled not in small part by the commercial appropriation of every occasion that has a name. Everybody loves a good discount. What is in a name?
But the origin of Women’s Day is in Women’s Rights movements. It isn’t about a lot of things that we get forwards on.
A few samples from my WA inbox this time around.
What’s wrong is that “Dear Women”, you shouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of raising the other half of the society. They also become adults, and then they should shoulder the responsibility of raising their children as well. This is typical of the kind of messages that take a problematic case of status-quo and paint a romantic aura around it. So, “Dear Women”, saddled with responsibilities that shouldn’t be yours alone? And other opportunities of having a fulfilling life are beyond your reach because of that? Worry not. You are “far superior”.
No, thanks! I will take equality.
Also, “Dear Women”, your life doesn’t have to be defined by giving birth to and raising children. You can choose not to.
And nope! There is nothing wrong is having and raising children either. Just don’t make it the essence of womanhood for everyone or try to present a discriminatory situation as desirable.
The next set includes two messages.
What’s wrong is that the worth of women has always been defined in terms of their relationships with others, particularly men. They are worthy not for what they are, but what they are to men. “Cute daughters”, “sweet sisters”, “lovely lovers” and their “inspiration” and “source of strength”.
Like birthing and raising children, there is nothing wrong in being all that, if that suits. But there is everything wrong in this being celebrated as a Women’s Day message and as essence and pride of being a woman.
No – a woman doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, defined by her relationship to men in her life. You can be a terrible sister, an annoying daughter and inspire no one. You are still an individual who deserves equal rights, equal pay, the freedom of movement and life choices. And that’s what the Women’s Day is about.
Next up is this.
Nooo! A woman is not by definition “wonderful”, “outstanding”, “marvelous”, “adorable”, and “nice”. For God’s sake, a woman may be none of these.
And yet, like I said above, she is an individual who deserves equal rights, equal pay, the freedom of movement and life choices. And that’s what the Women’s Day is about.
Finally, this gem
No thanks for internalizing the convenient male narrative that women don’t know their mind, or won’t speak them, or are impossible to understand – so what option do our clueless men have other than forcing whatever they want on them?
Stop with it, already! It isn’t cute. This is the kind of reasoning that makes people insensitive to ideas like consent and results in damaging things being done to women all the time.
That’s all for this edition of “The Wrong Kind of Forwards”!