I happened to be in Florence, Italy today, at the Galleria Della Accademia (Accademia Gallery). The first piece of art I saw when I walked in was a marble statue, a masterpiece by Giambologna, called “The Rape of the Sabine Women”. This represents an incident often called the same name or sometimes termed “Abduction of the Sabine Women”. Let me tell you a little about that incident. According to Roman mythology and historians like Livy, in the early history of Rome, just after its founding, Romulus and his male followers realized the population wasn’t growing enough and thus worried about the city’s strength. Yet, there were so few women inhabitants that growing the city’s population would be challenging. They appealed to a bunch of people including some from neighboring towns to co-mingle with them or marry them, but that was not successful. Thereafter, they decided the next course of action was to abduct Sabine women during a festival (they deceptively invited these women to) and then, they raped them.
I am currently traveling for vacation plus yesterday was my birthday so you can see how it may be a little challenging to write and engage with a thought-provoking article, but last year’s international women’s day post has since become on of the most popular posts on this blog (see also 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), further reinforcing the significance and urgency of this issue. So bear with me while I arrange my thoughts as carefully as I can.
So often, our society reminds me of Romulus and his followers. People take and take and take from women and what do women get in return? Unequal pay, unpaid maternity leave, sexual assault and harassment, silencing women, unconscious and conscious bias, lack of opportunities, sexism, racism, cultural practices so barbaric as to be asinine. How can it be that despite all the International Women’s Days we have had, that despite all these companies posting cutesy graphics, that with all the Google doodles, that women have to live in a world where they are forced to go back to work weeks (or even days) after giving birth to a human being? How is it that we still live in a world where women have to choose between work and motherhood? How is it that we still live in a world where women are second class citizens and are subjected to shrill (even pedestrian) misogyny and sexism? How is it that we still live in a world, and this is particularly idiotic, where some women are not allowed to inherit properties of their fathers? How do we still live in a world where domesticity and child rearing is still fully left to women?
“ Na so so submission, shey we get assignment?” — Simi
What is increasingly terrifying is the gaslighting that is evolving across various ideological spectrums and regions of the world. This idea of a faux progress towards gender equality. This idea of trivializing real issues women are dealing with in favor of other nonsense. Here is one truth. Africa’s rural women still bear the brunt of economic exclusion. Not to mention these other truths. This is why even this year as with last year, the sentiment is the same. Let’s refrain from the catchy slogans and pithy phrases because they are not enough. Let’s, in coming years, focus on dismantling systems that seduce women with platitudes. Let’s stop systems that choose the path of Romulus that looks like kidnapping and abducting women, and then raping them in the guise of “needing them”. If a day is dedicated to women, then let’s make something substantial out of it. We deserve better.
So much better.
Happy International Women’s Day!