I am Tired of International Women’s Day…Here is What We Actually Need
I recently [virtually] attended an event where Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Julia Gillard had spoken. They wrote a book about women leaders all over the world and what is different for them. Fantastic idea behind the book. But anyway, they both emphasized the double standards women are often held up to and judged by. Particularly important is women’s appearance, both literally and figuratively. Literally, as in, what are we wearing? Is our hair too big? Do we have make up? Do we not? Also figuratively, as in are we smiling enough? Are we likable? Are we warm? Are we nasty? Are we too emotional? Or too stern? Are we maternal? Or too independent?
I don’t know the solution to solving gender inequality. I do know though that every single one of us has a role to play in this fight. The world is better when both men and women participate in a world that both men and women inhabit. And such a fight must be inclusive; it must be intersectional; it must understand that although to be a woman is challenging in this world, to be a black woman is even more challenging. To be a black woman is to be termed aggressive when you dare speak up for yourself. To be a black woman is to have the media of an entire country including the twerp that is piers morgan harass you consistently for years and be expected to take it all in good grace. To be a black woman is to be called nasty. Yet, to be a black woman is to be expected to be everyone’s savior. It’s exhausting.
What is also exhausting in slow progress in this regard. I think it’s why more than ever when on just one day of the year — March 8 — I see all these platitudes, I find myself getting irritated. Everyone is affirming nice things about women today but what happens tomorrow? What happens when you walk into your boardroom or executive meetings, and there is not a single woman? What happens when you silence and visibly disrespect the voice of women on your team? What happens when you as a doctor continue to gaslight and ignore your women patients and their accompanying pain? What happens when you see a woman being consistently harassed whether at work or all over social media and you choose to willingly ignore? What happens when you lowball a woman and pay her less than her counterparts even when she deserves more? What happens when women run for office and are called shrill, nasty, unlikeable? What happens when women are termed hysterical?
I leave you with these important questions to ponder. This year, #choosetochallenge yourself to do better by women in your life, at work, and in every space your occupy. Institutions need to be reformed but more often than not, there’s work to be done in the hearts of people. I continue to, on this blog and where I can, challenge tropes that have wielded the bible as their weapon to oppress them.
Let me be clear, IWD is not about being nice to women or remind us how “strong we are”; or how we should be “revered”; or about emphasizing all the super accomplished women leaders championing important causes; or the few that are Fortune 500 CEOs. Please. It’s not that those things are not nice. But even women who are not badass prime ministers or superstar creatives deserve worth and value. Ordinary, everyday women deserve worth and value.
In fact, your favorite bad ass “girl boss” who crawled her way to the boardroom of a fortune 500 company might have internalized misogyny so much she thinks there is only room for one of her and therefore becomes openly hostile to other women. We must call out such vitriol. That’s why I don’t believe in the feminism that says women must be nice to all women. I don’t owe all women my niceness. As a matter of fact, I despise some women and there’s nothing you can do about it. I still think they should be treated equally as men. I just hate how they contribute to misogyny and how they deliberately hinder other women from greatness. This is also why more than filling your office spaces with the XX chromosome, enact policies that benefit women: have good healthcare; fund scientific research that reduce the occurrence of female cancers or just I don’t know figure out basic ish that cripple women; have generous maternity leave policies that allow women to progress at work while doing the noble job of populating our society (through childbirth); establish transparent pay practices; protect women from sexual harassment, and when there are allegations, don’t gaslight them into silence.
Paving to road to more equality is not rocket science. Some oppressors just have a vested interest in the status quo. This year #choosetochallenge them.
Originally published at http://www.themoderncedar.com.