I watched an episode of Oprah Winfrey once about dolphin conservation; she said saving dolphins was important because dolphins had been known to rescue humans. It made me so angry, and was another brick in the wall of my long drawn-out hatred of the woman. I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see how blatantly wrong and ignorant she was being. How could she not get that dolphins needed to be saved simply because they had a right to exist, needed to exist? That we had to help save them because it was us, we, who decided to come along and start killing them?
I opened today’s Times of India to find their huge Women’s Day spread. Its focus is on women’s safety in India; in public transport, in the workplace, in the home. Has India lived up to the aspirations of its women, this article asks. Quite thoroughly, through surveys and opinion polls, it tries to find out how safe women feel in India, and what they suggest be implemented to increase their well-being and safety.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it irks me that India’s mainstream press thinks this is an appropriate investigation to make on Women’s Day. Is it that I’m so tired of ‘women’s safety’ monopolizing all conversation we have about women in our part of the world? I can’t help but feel like Times of India, just like almost everyone else, has totally missed the point. But this is the reality; we are not capable of simply celebrating women.
Immediately to the right of this spread is an article penned especially for the paper by John Kerry, US Secretary of State. In this he talks about courageous women across the world, and says, ‘…it is so vital that the United States continues to work with governments, organizations and individuals around the world to protect and advance the rights of women and girls. After all, just like in our own country, the world’s most pressing economic, social and political problems simply cannot be solved without the full participation of women.’
A few other articles in the paper point out why it’s important to protect women: because they daughters, mothers, wives. Yet some other celebrate women excelling in fields that are considered typically ‘male’, bravo, we are surprised.
Effectively, women are celebrated a) because they have been victimised for so long and we feel bad, or b) because they are mothers/wives/daughters, or c) because they are crucial to solving the world’s larger problems (no shit) or d) because we’ve just realized they are actually every bit as useful as men.
We turn our women into heroes after we have made victims of them; we celebrate them after we have beaten them down. We cannot ever just amaze at their complexity before they are forced to excel, marvel at their strength before they are forced to be courageous in the face of heinous violence. We cannot ever fight for their rights just because we will not accept a world in which they do not have every right they are entitled to; just because. We did not ever fight for their rights before a fight was needed.
And here we are, many of us believing the battle already won. How foolish to think that, now, when you look around on International Women’s Day 2013 and you see how many people really just don’t get it. Of course we’re talking of thousands of years, generations upon generations of patriarchal structures; economic, legal, national and international structures that simply don’t accept that women are human beings of the same descent as men. I suppose it takes longer than a few hundred years to erase the impact that those structures have had on our psyches and way of life.
So, to the new-age argument that Women’s Day, like Women’s Rights, may no longer be a necessity, I say think again. You’d be surprised at how few people, even in this day and age, actually get it.