The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoughts on International Women's Day

by Tricia Dower

Last Saturday was the bittersweet (for me) International Women’s Day. I appreciate the gesture, especially if it spotlights the discrimination, violence, and oppression women experience around the world, but designating a day for women feels condescending: like a pat on the head for being a “good girl” or a gold star for trying. This year in Russia, according to a CBC article, “men were streaming into flower markets and florists around the country to buy bouquets for the women in their lives.” Personally, I’ll take equal pay and freedom from rape, forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, stoning, genital mutilation, and domestic violence over flowers any day.

Yesterday US President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Council on Women and Girls, “designed to ensure that federal agencies pay attention to the way their policies impact women and families.” Obama noted that while women are half the nation's population, they make up only 17 percent of the members of Congress and three percent of the heads of the top 500 corporations in the United States, hence the reason for focusing on them. A good idea, but the inclusion of “families” is troublesome, because it implies that women are primarily responsible for them. I was pleased to come across this opinion piece by Lisa Belkin in The New York Times expressing concerns similar to mine and in a much better way than I could. I hope you’ll read it.

Assuming we continue to “celebrate” International Women’s Day, I propose an International Men’s Day, as well, where we highlight the plight of child soldiers and analyze why men are socialized into violence (hockey, anyone?) and waging war. We could focus on preventative measures for prostate cancer and other diseases affecting men in greater proportion than women. Discuss whether men get a fair shake when it comes to child custody and if they get harsher sentences when convicted of crimes. Men could probably come up with a pretty good list of items they’d like to talk about.

If men and women each had a “special day,” perhaps we could equally share the other 363.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Thanks for this Tricia and for the link to the opinion piece by Lisa Belkin. I think your idea on an International Men's Day is a great one. To NOT have one, implies that the other 364 days of the year that are NOT international women's day are for them. which they are. Still. I agree with Lisa that these 'woman's' issues are really everyone's. We live in an interconnected world and it's simple social ecology that any one's problems eventually become some one elses. We'll all do better to make these issues our own to fight for.

Thu Mar 12, 03:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for the support, Andrew. As commentator Jim Hightower says, "Everybody does better when everybody does better."

Fri Mar 13, 12:05:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Great post, Tricia.

Can I drink beer on International Men's Day? Perhaps that feeds too much into the gender stereotyping you talk about...

There is an interesting group in my little town. A club for men that is trying to reassert what it means to be a man (the good parts). I've often thought about checking it out, but clubs are not really my style.

Fri Mar 13, 02:19:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

You can drink beer on International Women's Day, too, Steve! That sounds like an interesting group in your town. Why don't you check it out? Might give you some interesting writing topics plus a few tips on raising that wee lad of yours.

Fri Mar 13, 12:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I just read this comment by a man named Eric Hurley following an NPR article about the new Obama council:

"I hope this office can do good work, but am sad that an opportunity for real progress in dealing with gender issues has been missed. This office should deal with all gender related issues not just women and girls. Who will advocate for the boys who are not being properly educated due to pedagogies which ignore their learning styles? Who will advocate for the men who access medical care at half the rate of women and die on average six years younger. Who will speak for the fathers who are not allowed to raise their own children by family courts that demean their role in the children's lives. Who will promote work laws to save the lives of the disproportionate number of men (94%) who die in workplace accidents. Who will argue that the Women's, Infants, and Children Program should be the Parents’, Infants, and Children program and that the Violence Against Women Act should become the Domestic Violence Act."

Fri Mar 13, 01:43:00 pm GMT-4  

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