The day, week, and month that International Women’s Day has become is almost done for another year. I’ve been frank, for several consecutive years now, about the underwhelm and unease I feel about the ever-increasing fanfare which surrounds the ‘occasion’.
If the growing fanfare matched a commensurate increase in a tangible commitment to women and girls, or the pace at which gender inequality was being meaningfully eradicated, I’d be more enthused. My issue, at the risk of being an IWD grinch, is the disconnect between the apparent ‘celebration’ of women and the stark reality.
'The fanfare around #IWD has ballooned in recent years – which would be palatable if it reflected a commensurate improvement in the lives of women & girls. It hasn't.' @georgiedent https://t.co/nSuRsdOvGI
— Women's Agenda (@WomensAgenda) March 5, 2019
The fact on Friday an emergency meeting convened to address domestic violence concluded without a single new measure or action point to improve the safety of women and children, is a bitterly-disappointing case in point.
A crisis meeting convened on Friday between the Women’s Safety Ministers after the horrendous murders in Brisbane resulted in no tangible outcomes to increase the safety of women and children subject to domestic and family violence. It's not good enough. https://t.co/LPkJQDOPN7
— Women's Agenda (@WomensAgenda) March 9, 2020
That this meeting happened in the aftermath of four of the most horrendously violent murders Australia has ever witnessed, on the eve of International Women’s Day, is salt in a ghastly open wound.
If at this exact moment in Australia’s history we cannot expect a meaningful, all-bets are off, let’s try absolutely everything, approach to violence that is killing a woman every single week, when can we?
That hypocrisy is at the heart of my issue with IWD in its current manifestation and I’m not alone. In The Guardian Alexandra Topping observed IWD “is in danger of becoming little more than a corporate Valentine’s Day, with companies jumping on the bandwagon to whitewash their brands rather than promote women’s equality”.
International Women's Day risks becoming 'corporate Mother's Day', feminists say https://t.co/qDZ7wtDy3F
— Vivienne Hayes (@VivHayes) March 7, 2020
The chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, Vivienne Hayes, told The Guardian “This use of International Women’s Day by companies is part of the co-option of feminism and women’s equality into a much more mainstream position, that has led to the corporatisation of the advancement of women’s rights.”
Earlier this month Dr Kaye Quek and Dr Meagan Tyler asked if IWD should be celebrated or commiserated.
— Meagan Tyler (@DrMeaganTyler) March 3, 2020
“The corporate rebranding of International Women’s Day (IWD), as a time for cupcakes and celebration, couldn’t be further from its revolutionary roots, or any meaningful discussion of women’s liberation,” they wrote. “Now we’re even told, by one of the world’s most prominent IWD websites, “Equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue.”
In fact that website, the top-ranking site that appears on Google if you search ‘International Women’s Day’, is a corporate entity.
"Clearly they've invested quite a lot of money in developing an International Women's Day commercial entity” @JanelleWeissman tells @niltiac of the corporate IWC site outranking the @UN_Women page on google. #GenerationEquality https://t.co/FDniz8qLiC
— Georgie Dent (@georgiedent) March 8, 2020
The UN’s 2020 theme for IWD is #GenerationEquality. It is telling that the commercial IWD’s site theme #EachforEqual was adopted far more comprehensively by organisations hosting events this year.
Even the Minister for Women, Marise Payne, used the #EachforEqual theme designated by the corporate site, hosted by a London-based consultancy Aurora Ventures, when marking IWD.
The International Women’s Day 2020 theme is #EachforEqual, to highlight the effort each of us can make towards gender equality. It’s a day to celebrate women across the world & to reflect on challenges still faced in ensuring all women can fulfil their potential. @officeforwomen pic.twitter.com/yslFWNHMgV
— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) March 7, 2020
The blatant commercialism of a day designed to highlight the very real inequity women and girls continue to face is vile. The absolute last thing any woman or girl the world over needs is a corporate version of Mother’s Day.
On Sunday Westfield Hornsby ran a promotion with a list of seven different ways women could ‘celebrate’ IWD.
— Georgie Dent (@georgiedent) March 8, 2020
From getting a blow dry, to a mani/pedi, new dress or eating a pastry, I very nearly threw up. And I say that as someone rather fond of all of the above. (Particularly pastries).
My issue is exploiting an occasion to mark the ugly, gritty reality of inequality and repackaging it as another opportunity to shower women with hollow saccharine sentiments that won’t improve their lives.
My list. 1. Read a female authored book 2. Appreciate art by a woman 3. Call your mum/sister 4. Thank a woman who helped you 5. Tell a younger female what you appreciate in them. 6. Make a donation if you can to a charity that supports women in need. 7. Love yourself
— Pip Marlow (@pipms) March 8, 2020
Excellent list Pip. Here is 7 more…
1. Promote a woman
2. Hire/promote/hear from more WOC and Indigenous women
3. Listen to a woman (ie. really listen)
4. Fix a pay gap
5. Support all trans women
6. Provide a harassment free workplace
7. Don’t judge a woman by what she wears
— Dr Kirstin Ferguson (@kirstinferguson) March 8, 2020
Women and girls need equity. The hypocrisy of turning a day to highlight that into an opportunity for profit, rather than a necessary moment to address the fundamental barriers to equality, is the ultimate insult.