By Aditi Aryal*
Women’s day is celebrated all over the world on the 8th of March with great fervor. Despite the fact that women have come a long way since the firstly held women’s day in 1909, we are still fighting for progress and equality with the theme for 2018 being #PressForProgress. Being a woman definitely goes beyond the mere biology of possessing a body that could be dissected and thus categorised into belonging to that of a woman’s. It also goes beyond the expected gender norms and roles given to women by the society.
The year 2018 brings 109th women’s day and it should be a good place to discuss what it means to be a woman in today’s time, and the difficulties that come along with being one, with a major focus on the eastern part of the globe.
In Family And Society
Women have been suffering discrimination and injustice in the hands of men and other women. In families in the developing world, girls and boys are treated differently. Girls are taught to take care of their appearance, language, habits, elegance, and manners because as grown up women these attributes make great difference on the way people perceive and judge us. Growing up, girls are brought up more strictly than boys and made to participate in the household chores more. Upon marriage, brides and their families pay up ginormous amounts in cash and kind to the grooms and family. Menstruating women are still considered unchaste and impure and thus banished to animal sheds where they die of cold, animal attacks, infestation of insects and reptiles, and sex crimes. Honour killing is on the rise, even for trivial matters like talking to an unrelated male. Discouraged from looking beautiful, wearing bright colours and make up, and eating what they desire, or remarriage, widows live a terrible life of solitude and unhappiness.
Portrayed as perfect caretakers, home-makers, and nurturers, women have never been able to rise from the basic household duties, which in most cases is unpaid work. Not only are women left behind in the labour force with little participation, they very rarely hold higher positions. Housework is considered petty work and women who work outside the houses are valued more. It has also been concluded through various research in Brazil, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe that women who worked outside their houses faced lesser domestic violence, were more actively participating in politics, and had a bigger say in family matters. However, most women cannot in families make decisions also on subjects that concern them and this further impacts the overall participation and representation in the society. When some women do try to break from the bounds and speak up on things they are dissatisfied with, they rarely get support from other women because everyone is not mobilised in the society to speak up for themselves.
In eastern societies where worshipping of goddesses and demigoddesses is fairly rampant, being a woman means having to live as a victim of unwarranted assaults, and sexism. Sometimes, being a woman means having been killed in the womb or immediately after birth because the family and society wanted a male child. Often, being a woman means constantly having to look behind our shoulders for a potential rapist even in the safest of areas out of fear that has been institutionalised since we were children.
The value of being a woman is reduced to that of exactly what should not be, especially in the media. Commercial advertisements still show women as weak where they cannot fix their own things. They also show women as efficient workers in the house: doing the dishes, laundry, taking care of children who are hungry, sick, sleeping, tired, dirty, and such. Lab coats are put on women only when they need to tell us that ‘9/10 experts recommend the product’. Dark women are ugly and unsuccessful and fairness treatments are advertised without any hesitation. Advertisements for menstrual products do not actually try to inform people about the importance but rather focus on women on periods doing things they would not even do otherwise.
In print media and otherwise, women are always portrayed rather uncomfortably. Sexism has been reported to exist in forms that denigrate women, usually by the terminology and pictorial representation. Women’s sports team are called the ‘Women Sports Team’ and men’s teams are simply called the ‘Country’s Sport Team’. In some segments in the Nepalese newspapers, some female models and actors are asked questions like their favourite sexual encounters and positions, and their thoughts on masturbation. While these things are not wrong, per se, but there is a growing trend of using revelations of these women against them. One very famous female actor was once attacked on social media in 2017 for saying something along the terms of her preferences. Once women start talking about enjoying sex as an activity they are judged in the society because it alters from their opinion of a ‘good woman’. A good woman does not talk about her sex life in public.
Marketing gimmicks involve victimising women in the form of scandals, nudity, and stereotypes.
We celebrate women’s day every year to celebrate the difference women have been making to humankind. However, one day in the year allocated to profit making ventures like unnecessary programmes and rallies does very little. After the festivities are over, everybody goes back home dealing with the sexism of everyday lives.
In fact, there is no such thing as a women’s day if in reality we ensure women hold on to the same footing as men, are given equal salaries, freedom, treatment, opportunities, education, inheritance, importance, and chance to live. If women and men were equally placed in the society, we would never need for a separate day to remind each other to send out women-centric quotes on Whatsapp and Facebook. Rather, if we noticed and placed importance on subtle things and tried to avoid committing actions that brought out disparities among genders, every day would truly be women’s day. However, this 2018, let us truly #PressForProgress by smashing the patriarchy. For now, a happy women’s day.
About the author:
*Aditi Aryal is a student of Social Science and writes about social and developmental issues pertaining to exclusion, inequalities, and gender disparities in the South Asian context.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy