Saturday 19 October 2019

Patricia Casey: 'Women's Day is more about virtue-signalling and socialist activism than tackling real issues'

Symbol of female power. Stock image
Symbol of female power. Stock image

Patricia Casey

Today is International Women's Day. It reportedly evolved out of the sweatshops in the US after women protested at their conditions in New York on March 8 1857. This is now said to be apocryphal although the date has remained unchanged over the centuries.

In 1909, the Socialist Party of America organised the National Women's Day and in the course of the next decade countries like Denmark, Germany, France and Switzerland marked it too. They held suffrage projects or celebrated the Paris Commune, aided by the Socialist parties in those countries. Soviet Russia declared March 8 a national holiday in 1917. The success of the socialist organisers since the first demonstration in New York in 1909 bore fruit when the United Nations adopted World Women's Day in 1975 and affixed themes to it annually.

This year the theme is 'Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change'. With a motto like this, comprising three meaningless goals, it is hardly surprising that World Animal Day is probably better known rather than Women's Day.

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The Starship Enterprise, landing in Ireland today, would be somewhat confused about the role of women in Irish society now. Tuning in to our flagship radio and TV programmes, the occupants of the space ship would become acutely aware that we women are tied to the kitchen sink; a situation so grave that we are planning on ridding our Constitution of that dastardly provision in the next year or so.

They would hear that women in Ireland cannot succeed in academia because of unconscious bias against us, necessitating the establishment of female-only professor positions in our universities.

They would learn that the absence of women from the political arena is so grave that it is necessary to insist on gender quotas across all boards and professions if the rampant discrimination against women is to be stalled.

Ambivalent: ‘A day to mark the existence of 50pc of the population seems to me to be self-indulgence’
Ambivalent: ‘A day to mark the existence of 50pc of the population seems to me to be self-indulgence’

These endless stereotypes portrayed by the media would terrify these alien visitors to our island. Unless of course they had their latest copy of 'The Global Gender Gap' (2018), published by the World Economic Forum. Its report is published annually and it discusses gender equality items around the world.

In 2018, the top gender-equal country in relation to equality was Iceland, followed by Norway, Sweden and Finland. Ireland was ranked ninth and was ahead of Britain, France and even Denmark.

No doubt these social wrongs will be endlessly discussed, dissected and debated over and over again at various lunches, events, seminars, poetry readings, circle dances and think-ins as the day tediously goes on. The content of the media bubble will be repeated again and again.

Clearly, I am ambivalent about days to mark special groups. The aim is to highlight problematic social or health issues around autism, cancer, mental health and so on. Perhaps these have certain merits as they highlight hidden and stigmatised issues in our society.

However, a day to mark the existence of 50pc of the population seems to me to be self-indulgence. Certainly, there are problems facing women, just as they also affect men. And there is also an International Men's Day in November, although it receives barely a mention in our media.

As an example of gender hypocrisy, last year Ellen Degeneres marked Men's Day on her show by drooling over the "hottest" men in Hollywood. Imagine the outcry if Greg Gutfeld on Fox News covers Women's Day in his show this evening showing pictures of semi-clad curvaceous blondes while commenting on their bust or hip size. The world would stop rotating and grind to a death-ringing halt.

International Women's Day is ultimately an excuse for virtue signalling, as every 'woke' celebrity and social commentator steps out to decry misogyny, gender bias, and the rape culture on campuses, while demanding trigger warnings, safe spaces, and insisting on deplatforming those whose opinions they do not agree with.

Of course, some will also and rightly call out female genital mutilation, domestic violence, homelessness and poverty.

But these social problems and many others also assail men and to appropriate them as female only is both incorrect and narrow. It also locates women as victims in the overall social landscape.

International Women's Day stems from socialist activism and continues to do so. Does it speak to those who are apolitical? Does it resonate with women who chose to be stay-at-home mothers (I am not one) or carers, to women who devote their time volunteering in the slums of Kolkata or to those who campaign against gendercide abortion and other such untrendy causes?

There is no doubt that women, just like men, face struggles that vary from culture to culture and country to country, but the struggles men and women face overlap more than they diverge.

And have either International Women's or Men's Day made any impact on the issues they claim to address? Are they just an excuse for having a luxury day with like-minded people or a serious political effort? Is it naive to think that a single day of the year to target all of the world's ills will make the slightest difference?

I think you know my answer.

Irish Independent

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