We wrap up our coverage for this month with two stories on International Women’s Day, observed on March 8 every year. The first was about how labouring women workers commemorated it this March. Here’s the second.
There was no concept or significance of March 8 when I was growing up. Not in my school. Not in my feminist college. Not in my university, post graduation. Not at my first job in advertising. Not at the production house that I joined later.
It was never mentioned or celebrated. And then suddenly in March 2001, there was a burst of Women’s Day chatter. A big buzz.
A pub on Residency Road had erected a huge, larger than life sculpture of a woman in a mini skirt, with legs parted at the entrance of the pub — yes, they did that! You needed to walk in between the legs to get inside the pub.
There were two huge giggling bouncers stamping people’s wrists right next to those long stiletto-clad legs. There was a male fashion show on the cards. Nice looking men wearing tiny things walked the ramp.
Lots of colourful alcohol flowed in shot glasses. Booming loud music could be heard everywhere. Many women had come to the pub with their women friends in big numbers.
I too had gone with my friends. It was a blast. It felt like a college fest. We drank. We danced. We sang “Girls just wanna have fun”. We laughed loudly. Cracked bawdy jokes. It was a fun night.
Afterwards, when we were done, exhausted, tired and ready to go back home, we couldn’t find a single taxi or an auto to take us back home. The larger-than-life sculpture of the woman in a mini skirt with legs parted seemed to be mocking us.
The soberest one of us drove and went about dropping everyone else. Then slept over at the last one’s place because it was just too late to drive alone.
Back to daily patriarchy
We all went back to our life the next day. Some to toxic boyfriends, husbands, bosses. Some to underpaid jobs. Some to low self-esteem. Some to being pushed and shoved on crowded streets. Some to patriarchal homes. Some to conference halls and meetings completely underrepresented.
Most of us went back to being a butt of sexist jokes, body shaming, and everyday misogyny, reliving our traumas casually to name just a few, and all very naturally, without much thought.
No matter where we were, regardless of who we were, or what age we were. All of us went back to trying hard to fit in, jostling, making space for ourselves somehow. Sometimes pushing even against each other.
In 2001, we did not think too much about equality. Or equal pay. Or equal rights. Or patriarchy. Or silent toxicity. We were hardworking girls who wanted to have some fun from time to time, that is all that mattered. That is all we knew. March 8 Women’s Day. Good enough. So, we celebrated.
Well, thankfully it is not 2001 anymore.
The thing is there is always that thing called the real life waiting post-March 8. Year after year.
And there is so much work to be done, every year.
I am glad that I have a slightly deeper understanding of women’s rights and a whole new wave of what March 8 may mean to different people. So, I am not averse to its benefits.
But let us keep our privileges in check; The ones among us who have managed to overcome biases at work, home, within our circles who are earning a living; the ones who can sustain and who have a better understanding of negotiating the system; those who have had opportunities; have been given platforms to speak from and the ones among us who are heard.
Well, I hope we can help someone else. Really help, and not just in a lip service way. Without being apologetic about it.
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Let us open our hearts and minds enough to know that we are not handed down this privilege so easily. Let us understand that someone in our family system, at our workplace, in our life, has made space for this miracle to happen.
Let us dig deep into our personal histories. Not just till our mothers or grandmothers, but to our great grandmothers and their mothers. Let us go back and explore those stories.
I am sure most of us will unearth that this has been anything but easy. Or fun.
Much work to be done
So, the next time you feel that you are gender neutral as a professional, remember the numbers. If you see a gap, try to fix that.
If you feel uncomfortable calling yourself a feminist and an equal rights ally, zero in on your present moment — look where you are and ask yourself how you got there. If it needs fixing, fix it. If not, fix it for someone else.
If you have understood the system a little bit, guide someone else through it instead of overanalysing, or worse, scoffing and detaching. Do it without apathy.
Go ahead and celebrate March 8 the way you deem fit, but do not forget the work that is to be done.
You cannot do everything for everyone, but you can do something for someone.