Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day (IWD) and it seems like only yesterday that I had interviewed a few incredible Pashtun women and written my piece titled, Why Celebrate International Women’s Day?, last year, which was also published on the Express Tribune Blog. And while the past year flew by, fairly quickly I must say, my views about IWD, however, have not changed. I will explain in just a second.
While I appreciate this day and its main aim and purpose, I still strongly hold the view that it is a day that only privileged women — those who are supposedly free and not bound by any rules or boundaries — can celebrate, relate to, and acknowledge. And while this day is intended to celebrate and commemorate women whose voices have been silenced, whose lives are controlled and oppressed by the men (and perhaps even other women) in their lives, and who’ve lost their lives by going against common norms and beliefs, it is once again only the privileged ones who are aware of this and are hence able to honour and/or commemorate. And while I did briefly talk about this issue in my blog last year, I would like to further build up on this in this write-up.
Personally, I believe that IWD is not meant for and cannot be celebrated by the ‘ordinary’ woman. And, by ordinary here, I am referring to those underprivileged women who have yet to realize that they are human beings, like everyone else, and actually have rights.
She is that ordinary woman you hear about in the news — the one who was killed through the guise of “honour” by her brother/father/husband/male cousin.
She is that ordinary woman whose beautiful face was mutilated by acid simply because she was accused of being unfaithful (without any proof).
She is that ordinary woman who is married off, or perhaps even sold, at only nine or ten years of age to a man thrice her age.
She is that ordinary woman who lives her life, day in and day out, serving her husband and ensuring that his comfort and happiness comes first and above all.
And she is that ordinary woman, who unlike you and me, is not aware that IWD even exists and that she is being commemorated all over the world. No, she has absolutely no idea at all, because the only thing she knows is the sordid yellow wall-paper to which she has been restricted to.
I know some people will tell me, “But, but… isn’t that why we have and need IWD? To commemorate those women who have been suppressed, tortured, killed, etc.? To at least dedicate ONE special day to them?”
Well, yes and no. Yes, we do indeed ought to honour these brave women. We definitely need to remind ourselves time and time again that life is not a bed of roses and that there are and have been women — many women — out there, both historically as well as in the present time, who have sacrificed and lost so much due patriarchy and oppression. Yet, at the same time, what’s the point of having only one day dedicated to these women, and that too when many women around the world don’t know about it nor are able to celebrate this day themselves? Ideally, it would make sense if every single living woman in the world are able to celebrate this special day. In a perfect world, IWD will be the one day when patriarchy will disappear and all the oppressed women of the world will tear up the sickly, ugly yellow wallpaper off of their walls and come out into the bright, beautiful sunlight to rejoice in their emancipation.
Unfortunately, that can’t and will not ever happen. We do not live in a perfect world — very far from it. It’s just so easy to “celebrate” underprivileged women, from the comfort of our homes, but we, as privileged women, need to realize that these tributes won’t change nor affect the lives of those women who have yet to get a taste of freedom — women who have no idea what freedom even means.
There are times, however, when I can’t help but wonder whether IWD was created (and that too by privileged women) to escape guilt and perhaps also for the fact that they want to feel “close” to the underprivileged women, for they know that they will never truly understand their plight. And even if that is the reason for celebrating IWD, who am I to judge them, right? I am sure their intentions are honourable, albeit overly simplistic.
Of course, I am not saying that we shouldn’t commemorate these incredibly courageous women and that it’s wrong to have days like IWD. However, I personally don’t see a point in it, for as for me, it is way too limiting and inequitable.
And, like I said in the previous blog I wrote last year: Why should we have to dedicate only one day to celebrating women — both the privileged and underprivileged — alike? Why can’t we celebrate and commemorate women every single day? We have inspiration all around us! From our amazing mothers to our sisters to our close friends to the incredible women we hear and learn about in the media.
So, yes, I will say it again: For me, every day is International Women’s Day. And it always will be.