What do women need Women’s Day for? Every day is Women’s Day for them. It’s not like they do much anyway.
If you’re a woman, especially one in Pakistan, this is something you’ve probably heard before.
If you were brave (or foolish) enough to defend Women’s Day, your words were probably met with eye-rolls, scoffs or patronising smiles. Beta, they say, you don’t really understand how the world works if you think this is tough.
God forbid you tell them you’re a feminist. Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes but it could be a swear word as far as a lot of people are concerned. The word evokes shudders and sneers.
Some women don’t even want to be called feminists. They think it’s a dirty word. Only those kinds of women are feminists. You know them. They don’t shave or wax, they hate men. They’re against the institution of marriage and are probably gay.
Even Beyonce once shied away from calling herself a feminist. She told British Vogue in 2013 that “that word can be very extreme … But I guess I am a modern-day feminist”.
“I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman. … I do believe in equality and that we have a way to go and it’s something that’s pushed aside and something that we have been conditioned to accept. … But I’m happily married. I love my husband.” Somehow, she believed being married, happily or otherwise, and loving her husband made her less of a feminist.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her novel We Should All Be Feminists that the word feminist is “heavy with baggage, negative baggage”.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public otherwise you will emasculate him. But what if we question the premise itself: Why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man?” she wrote.
The last line, “why should a woman’s success be a threat to a man” resounds. Why should a woman’s success be a threat to anyone? When a woman makes her way to the top there are hundreds of people ready and waiting to pull her down. Know your place, they tell her. Women should be soft and gentle, they say. Of course, if she’s too soft and gentle she’s a pushover and if she dares to act bold and commanding (like a man basically) they’ll say she’s something else entirely.
Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. It starts with a sneer, a contemptuous glance and ends with, “Well, what did she expect would happen if she was wearing that.” The Patriarchy – a P word if I ever heard one – has long been against the equality of the sexes but when did we become our own worst enemies?
We judge, we scoff at and, more often than not, we disparage other women. She wears too much makeup. She doesn’t wear enough make up. Her clothes are too tight. Her clothes are too baggy and dowdy. We talk about and often criticize the way a woman looks, walks, talks, acts, eats and breathes and yet we somehow still don’t see the problem here.
We don’t believe women when they say they are harassed. We tell them their clothes were too revealing or tight or short or colourful and that they need to ‘learn how to talk to men’, to not be so friendly and over.
We tell them they must learn how to walk without being inviting, be nice but not too nice, smile but not too wide, look but not too hard, don’t attract that kind of attention.
It’s exhausting, to say the least. So is a single day to just breathe so much to ask for?