Commemorate but Don’t Celebrate Women’s Day (at least not yet)

By: Maria Jose Pinto

More than a few years ago, on March 8th, my boyfriend at the time gave me a box of chocolates and a card that said “Happy Women’s Day!” A few years later, at work, on the same date, I found a cupcake on my desk that read: “Today we celebrate the most beautiful and delicate being of the planet: Happy Women’s Day”. Every time I would run into men (and women) on this date, they would say: “Hey, happy women’s day!”. I have to admit that until a few years ago I thought that was it: March 8th was the day to celebrate us women and our fight towards a more equal world. Like my past self, I like to believe the people that aim to “celebrate” this day do so without knowing what we actually remember every year on March 8th, and contrary to what they say: there is nothing to celebrate, but to commemorate, and remember there is still an infinite way to go regarding gender equality.

What do I mean by this? Yes, women have won infinite fights against a forever oppressing society, everywhere, and in many ways. But, why should we celebrate something that should be inherent to our existence? We, men and women, have biological differences, but why has that continuously entailed different (and unfair) opportunities? Why do we “celebrate” the fact that we keep closing the gender gap, when there should not be a gender gap at all? I know: “but Majo, the world has unfortunately always been like that, you need to be happy that developments are happening for women every year”. I’m not saying I’m not; from a privileged woman of color perspective, I am happy, and the fights won in the past are something I like to remember every day: when I go to school and sit beside men in the same class; when I explore job opportunities that include a disclaimer that the work place has an equal wage policy, and when I get birth control at the pharmacy next to my home. However, the fight that got us women to this place is not something we should celebrate, because we should have never been in this position to begin with. Women’s Day is instead a day we should commemorate with gratitude to the women who came before us.

As we remember these women with appreciation, let this day be one in which we think what we can do to make our surroundings (ok, if you are a SIPA student, probably the world) a more equal place. Because, even though we don’t always see it from our IAB bubble, there is a long path ahead of us. In Latin America, we had to create a new word – feminicidio, or “femicide”, which refers to the murder of a woman on the basis of her sex – because nine women are killed every day in our region, by toxic stereotypes. The situation is so dire that the UN named Latin America the most dangerous region in the world for women. In Europe, women hold only 26 percent of the Ministers’ positions, and 27 percent of seats in parliament. In West Africa, women spend, on average, six times more than men on unpaid domestic care work (cleaning, cooking, caring for children, etc.), which hinders them from having professional lives and promotes economic dependency on their partners. In the Asia Pacific region, there is only one woman for every four men in companies’ leadership positions, and in some countries in East Asia, this number drops to 12 women out of 100 men. And the list goes on.

In a school that is well-known for its progressivism on many global social issues, I have still found myself on countless occasions explaining to men why gender equality is important, why positive discrimination such as quotas systems are not “unfair” to men, and why the Brett Kavanaugh case was so inhumane, even though according to them “it had happened so many years ago”. And as a gender specializer, I don’t mind – this is my job now, and I will encounter worse throughout my professional life. Standing up for equality is what I want to do. However, as policy makers, gender equality should be at the top of everyone’s priorities; maybe not within our professional paths, but in our daily lives, as we see women as equal peers.

So, let’s not celebrate how beautiful and delicate we are today, nor the accomplishments we’ve had so far, because at the end of the day it’s unfair we had to fight for what our inherent rights have always been. Let’s remember instead the long path ahead, our role in it, and always commemorate the heroines and heroes that risked their lives so that women could live in a better and more equal world. But most importantly, let’s remember every single day of the year that women and men are equal.