On Women’s Day

Every conceivable angle on Woman’s Day has been tapped out I think.

There is the “gratitude” post, which thanks women for all their sacrifices, while simultaneously implying it is expected of them and they would be seen as less of women if they don’t make them. There is the self-flagellation of the new age male, which drops an insincere sorry every March apologizing for his sex, but not really changing any behaviours the rest of the year. There is then the apolitical route, where you tap out and just say a “Happy Women’s Day” and move on from there, somehow pretending saying that has adequately acknowledged the complex socio-politics and history behind the day. So in such a tapped out market, what do I do? I can’t be unoriginal, because ego. But there is not much else left for me to say either. It feels like there are no right answers here. No matter what I say, I will piss someone off.

Joshi ma’am, an English professor back in Deshbandhu College, said something very deceptively poignant on a panel once. “Is a woman, a woman or a human?” The more I think about that one line, the more layers I uncover in that simple sentence.

Women’s Day, despite its noble intentions, feels like has been co-opted by the system to perpetuate itself. It is teeming with tokenism, floundering in fabrications, with everyone jumping on for the quick results they can make off of it, without instituting any real change. I heard a story about someone pitching a Period care kit as a women’s day gift, but the idea was shot down saying “We are not that advanced yet”. Advanced enough for what exactly? To acknowledge women menstruate? Imagine being in a culture where you are never given handkerchiefs on Holi with dry fruits, because everyone likes to pretend you don’t sweat. And it’s one tale amongst thousands, even millions. And I suspect much of it also comes from thinking of women as women, before one thinks of them as people. In a strange what-if scenario, I have always wondered if our attitudes about this would have been different if menstruation was rebranded away from “aurato waali bimari”. To what, I am not sure? But I’m sure people can think of something. There are many smarter and more educated minds than me around thinking about the problem.

So, obviously, I do wish you have a Happy Women’s Day. We are grateful for all that you do for us. We are kind of guilty about how women have been treated, and continue to be. We do acknowledge more can be done to let people have the opportunity to achieve their full human potential. But on top of that, maybe it is time we figure out where exactly is the bug, which necessitates having this day. In an ideal world, we shouldn’t need a day to celebrate contributions, it should be done every day. But we don’t live in one. So till we do, maybe the best thing would be to figure out how to get to a place where we don’t need the day anymore.

I do hope gratitude works the same way water does. 8 glasses a day is essential to life, but being fired upon with a fire hose is not very pleasant for anyone.

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