Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy day, ladies!

March 8 is International Women's Day. Mark it however you like, but take a few minutes to read Zoe Williams' column from yesterday's Guardian: "This is idiocy, not feminism." She makes a good point, that while IWD is supposed to be about women's rights and equality, it has been largely hijacked by irrelevant, feel-good events that have no real effects on women's lives. (Excerpt: "Fashion is to international women's rights as Agassi kitchen utensils are to gay rights. Yes, some women are interested in fashion; some gay men own more than one brightly coloured fish slice. But it is an outrage against people who take liberties seriously -- who embody the core of feminism by interpreting it as a war that hasn't been won until it's been won for all women -- to trivialise these matters.")

I suspect that IWD is also going down the well-lit, shop-lined road of corporate philanthropy, like "breast cancer awareness" before it. (For more on that, see Think Before You Pink.) When I was looking for a general-info link about Women's Day, I came across this one, which at first glance seems pretty neutral, except that its corporate sponsors are given an alarmingly strong presence on the page. In fact, this is itself a corporate website, trying to look like activism. So let's move on.

I'll point you instead to IWD info from Status of Women Canada, the UN, and the International Development Research Centre. These ones are about action -- and not the shopping kind. There are a few more things to read -- on women's political rights worldwide, women in the military, human trafficking -- in CBC.ca's "In Depth: Women" section.

8 comments:

LaurieM said...

I signed a petition today to keep a local women's shelter open. It was carried by a male co-worker. That's a good start to the day...

anne said...

Thanks for posting this. I thought it was quite auspicious when I scheduled my dissertation prospectus meeting for IWD, but then in a fury of last-minute nerves, I forgot about Women's Day.

hoodsue@yahoo.com said...

Just delurking to say thanks for the links on corporate philanthropy, etc. I've enjoyed your blog for a while, initially for the knitting content, though these days I find myself more and more interested in posts such as this one. I still love the knitting, but really appreciate your taking the time to share such information and raise awareness.

Chris said...

Thanks for the links and the assessments!

catless said...

A sometime lurker (love your blog, by the way--I've been dying to make those garter-stitch mitts you have on your banner) just de-lurking to say: while the breast cancer awareness campaign has its seamy corporate side, it has by and large done its job. My sister does clinical research on prostate cancer, and is continually bemoaning the fact that she cannot open clinical trials due to the lack of public support/public awareness about the disease. She is absolutely green with envy when she looks at breast cancer doctors, who seem to have limitless money and exposure, and who are therefore not hamstrung in their efforts to find a cure (and have a much more willing and informed patient population to work with).

But yeah, International Women's Day--in my little town, the celebration consisted of a spa coupon in the local paper for a manicure, and a sale on shoes downtown.

georgia said...

I agree that it is a huge problem when corporate interests overwhelm and obscure the very important political message and significance of a day such as IWD. However, I think it is also important to recognise the value and significance of many 'feel-good events' - get-togethers in community centres, pot luck suppers organized by women's groups etc. - these events, while perhaps not particularly focused in terms of activism are nonetheless certainly not "irrelevant". They offer opportunities for solidarity, friendship, support, even a good meal for many women in poverty.
I feel really self-conscious and quite shy about ranting here, especially as someone who really enjoys your blog, but it really irks me when phrases like 'feel-good' are used in that way. For me, it reinforces (even when perhaps not intended to) a hierarchy that devalues what is emotional and personal. Action is important, large-scale activism is important but we all must contribute in whatever way we can. In many cases that might mean organising a good meal for a few friends or a drumming circle for a student or community group. An event (however small) where the women who particpate feel good, feel self-esteem, feel support and love from their fellow women when they leave, is deserving of respect.
I apologise for ranting a bit, re-reading your post I think I understand that you're not pointing at the smaller community event but really exclusively at the corporate gig. I'll let my response stand anyway in case you find it interesting. I love your blog and, most sincerely wish you a Happy Women's Day (all 27 mins that are left of it here in Calgary).

Dr. Steph said...

Happy Belated IWD to you too!

While I can see Georgina's point and I don't want to negate the significance of personal feel good actions for the people who participate in them, I have lots of trouble with how these are the only actions that seem to get any space in the dominant culture.

The problem with the corporatization of these feel good events is that they are seen as the correct way to deal with women's rights, breast cancer or whatever and they position activism, protest, anger and political action as "disruptive, noisy, not the right way to do things".

Most feminists used the emotional support time to get angry and build coalitions for change, something the current take on IWD doesn't spend much time discussing.

And read Samantha King's Breast Cancer Inc book if you want to learn more about fundraising--very interesting stuff.

Cambria said...

I marked the day by turning 30 :)