“Woman’s day is around the corner, shop to indulge, surprise, admire her”. This was Flipkart’s tag line for their digital marketing promotions in the run up to International Woman’s day. Is this why we celebrate Woman’s day, for more shopping? Isn’t it bad enough that all our festivals, from Diwali to Christmas, Eid to Rakshabandhan – all are already overly commercialized and seem to be more about what you wear, gift, buy, consume and less about what they stand for?
A woman is perceived to be the last word on all (Domestic) Decisions in a household: Décor, Draperies, Detergent, Dress and Diet. So am certain some FMCG giant would have kicked off another marketing blitz around all things Woman. Something that will put even Big Bazaar’s tremendously successful Independence and Republic Day campaigns, to shame. The usual questions come to mind. Is shopping and receiving gifts the only way a woman can feel good about herself? (In fact, I would extend this argument to all mankind). Is this how we want to celebrate womanhood? Why do we celebrate a day especially for Women?
International Woman’s Day originally called International Working Woman’s Day, started in Eastern Europe and the erstwhile Soviet Bloc as a socialist and political movement. Over the years, some regions have celebrated it as day of appreciation and love for the women in their lives (read mother, wife, etc) and others have maintained the United Nations political and human rights theme fairly strongly. Here, the political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are set up for examination, debate, and discussion and hopefully, some action.
From 1909, when the International Woman’s Day was first observed, to this day, many issues have been brought to fore. In fact, Woman’s Day in Germany in 1914, was marked with protests for Right to Vote for Women (which they won eventually in 1918). In 1917, women protestors’ thronged St. Petersburg on Woman’s Day for “Bread and Peace”, demanding the end of World War I and end of the Russian food shortage. The focus in 2014 is Gender equality.
Can Indian women do that today? Do we have a dearth of Women related concerns to stand up for? Lets journey into the history of evolution. Evolution didn’t envisage that the key differentiator of man and animal, the human brain, will alas! do just that. Turn us into animals. Abort fetuses, kill girl infants, starve little girls hoping they would die, make them stay at home and work, instead of sending them to school, make them pay for having a girl by asking for dowry, treat them like child rearing machines, tease them, harass them, beat them, rape them. Shatter their inner beings into so many pieces, that they can never truly recover, never say no, never learn to stand up and ask why? Man has turned into an animal. Cliches’, beaten to death, nothing new, but they still ail our society.
As a student growing up in Delhi in the early 90s, I was inspired by Rajiv Goswami, the first student who attempted to immolate himself, protesting the implementation of the Mandal Commission. I didn’t really understand then (and it hurts when I write this), why we needed reservations for college admissions? Now I do. International Woman’s Day is celebrated for similar reasons. Don’t get me wrong. I do not support immolation or the AAP methods. But I urge each one of us to stand up for all that is wrong. So today, we need to be at India Gate in Delhi, the Gateway in Mumbai, the Victoria Memorial at Kolkatta, the Freedom Park at Bengaluru. Demanding pink taxis, pink autos, pink PCR vans, pink railway stations, pink panchayats, longer maternity leave, childcare facilities at work, more women in the workforce (all industries including politics), passing of the women reservations bill, pink laws, if you please.
This International Woman’s Day, I would urge you to make the day meaningful in your own small (or big) way. It doesn’t have to be a protest. Stop celebrating your technical and financial inhibitions, up skill yourself , learn something new, volunteer for a cause, rise women: get back to work, embrace the internet, open your mind to the social media, learn to network, join mentoring programs, find sponsors and if all this is not applicable to you somehow (!!), tell your kids about International Woman’s day and what it really stands for. Tell your daughters, about self-esteem and that being fair-complexioned is not important, and more importantly, tell your sons too.
To conclude, I quote Munnabhai ( Sanjay Dutt) from the hindi movie Lage Raho Munnabhai, when he asks Circuit (Arshad Warsi): Do you know what October 2nd is? And Circuit answers “Dry day”!
Don’t let the International Woman’s Day on March 8th, become a Discount Day. You may or may not join a protest, but please do not shop today.