San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
International Women's Day

Why we need International Women’s Day

Just six days after the first International Women’s Day in 1911, more than 140 women workers died in a factory fire in New York City. The bosses had locked the doors so that the women couldn’t steal materials by hiding them in their long hair; outrage over the incident brought increased attention to the nascent Women’s Day movement and was honored in subsequent editions of the new tradition. We’ve come a long way since then toward recognition of full equality – but not far enough.

In most countries women outnumber the men, and in voting patterns the gap is even wider, with more women than men exercising the right to vote. So why aren’t more women in local and national governments? Quota systems are set up to try to achieve a goal of 40 percent female representation, and that goal is rarely met.

The same is true in other fields: industry, economics, education. In elementary and high school the top scholars are usually girls, yet they fall by the wayside professionally, and it’s not because they’ve gotten dumber. They’re just not expected to be as competent or as competitive as men.

Take a look at any important meeting, conference or international body, and what do you see? A sea of suits and ties. Even at the top, the United Nations, which proposes the inclusion of women in decision-making under Resolution 1325, we see few women in action. In peace processes where the presence of women is mandated, they are noticeably absent. And because women are often the de facto arbiters of peace and are always among the victims of armed conflicts, we have a lot to say about peace.

Television commercials still target women for cleaning products. We see women in aprons smiling sweetly, even singing, as they cook up dishes for the rest of the family to devour. Most women find the task of preparing food three times a day a drudgery. And scouring all the pots and pans? There isn’t a product in the world that makes it worth smiling about. Grease on the stove, spots on the clothes, crud in the sink, dog hair on the furniture, cockroaches in the kitchen – yet there we are, happy as can be, cleaning up after others. And if there is no wife in the family to take care of things, hire a maid.

To be sure, there are more products and services for women than men on the market. There are gyms for toning up and slimming down to become more attractive. There are facials, massages, pedicures and other treatments to rid our bodies of flabby fat, cellulite and wrinkles, and there are all sorts of creams and lotions to cover up and reduce varicose veins and facial blemishes. Our intimate apparel, designed and manufactured in distant lands, comes to us with lace, bows and cute little sayings; somewhere, someone, most likely not a woman, decided we should dress like little girls. Would they dress men like little boys?

Family planning: Who’s responsible for that? We have pills, patches, gadgets, operations and visits to the gynecologist. Even for pets, family planning is left to the women. Rarely do we see a man take a male dog or cat to be fixed. It’s as if they feared for themselves.

So on March 8, we women get together to be ourselves: old, young, fat, skinny, rural, urban, homemaker, professional, loving, competent, capable problem-solvers and peacemakers. That’s what we want, really: to be ourselves. Our glorious selves.

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Ken Morris

Anyone who wonders why some us Neanderthal men have a difficult time supporting this kind of pseudo-feminism (it’s not valid feminism IMO) needs only to read this article critically.

No doubt 140 women did die in a factory fire in 1911, but actually men are far more likely to be killed or injured on the job than women. Insofar as workplace safety is a gender issue, it’s a men’s issue, not a women’s issue. Wouldn’t it though be better to skip the gender branding and just care about workplace safety for everyone?

Yes, since 1980 in the US and a few other developed countries, women have turned out to vote in slightly higher numbers than men have. Plus, there is a slight tendency for women to support different candidates and parties than men. But I’m hard-pressed to find anything sexist in this. In fact, the sensible inference would seem to be the opposite, namely that women feel more politically empowered than men and make their different opinions heard at the ballot box.

True, despite their slightly higher voter turnout rates (in some countries) women almost everywhere are less likely to serve in elective office than men. However, it’s not clear that anyone but the voters and the potential candidates themselves are preventing this. In head-to-head races, men tend to get more votes than their female opponents; women have better chances of winning in both proportional representation and of course quota systems. Female political candidates also frankly don’t as a rule have the same length of experience as male candidates, often because they have taken time of to bear and rear children. Maybe it’s unfair that women have to be the ones to have the babies, but this is a matter to take up with God, not one for which sexist political systems can be blamed.

(BTW, the same thing explains most of the so-called pay gap between men and women in the workplace. Men on the average have greater seniority and work more overtime, and once these differences are factored in, the pay gap in the same occupations disappears. From the standpoint of their careers, even their political careers, motherhood costs women, but I don’t understand how this can be construed as a sexist injustice.)

Meanwhile, gosh, Costa Rica has a quota system that requires half the legislators to be women, and recently both the president and the head of the courts were women. Politically, women dominated in Costa Rica, and even had their own tax-funded Institute of Women when there is no corresponding institute for men.

Yet mysteriously this article still objects to the “sea of suits and ties,” as if the guys wearing them are somehow oppressing the women. Actually, although a small point, it annoys me that men have to wear ties and women don’t. I hate ties.

And there is the complaint that despite girls doing better than boys in elementary and high school, they don’t succeed professionally as well as men do.

Actually, the problem is worse than the article avers, and again the opposite. In Costa Rica and the US, girls not only perform better in school than boys do, but they are also more apt to graduate from high school and are overrepresented in university enrollments. Some critics suspect that there has been a “feminization of the curriculum” that thwarts the ability of boys to do well in school, the data would seem to bear this or something like it out, and we have real gender discrimination against boys here. Yet somehow this is spun as unfair to girls.

Meanwhile, in the US and elsewhere (though not so much in Costa Rica) male incomes have remained flat for over a generation while female incomes have risen. On the average, women have been enjoying more professional success than men for a long time, yet the pseudo-feminist complaint is still that women are cheated.

Next we get that TV commercials target women for cleaning products, with the aside that women find even cooking a drudgery. I dunno, it seems that commercials for car wax and gutter-cleaning gadgets target men, and strangely more men than women become master chefs. You’d think that with women getting so much experience cooking that more would become chefs, but for some reason that doesn’t happen. How though sexism is to blame for this baffles me.

The article proceeds to assert that there are more products and services on the market for women than men. While I doubt this is true, if it is it is sounding to me that women have more consumer choices than men. How is this unfair to women? Indeed, since until old age women have less money than men, if they’re buying more stuff than men, the men are paying for it.

Especially offensive to the writer is that so many of these products marketed to women focus on enhancing their appearance and sex appeal. Last I looked though every known culture in human history has placed more of an emphasis on female than male appearance and sex appeal (while placing a corresponding emphasis on material prosperity for the men who hope to woo the women). Maybe the whole world has always been a sexist cesspool (and I personally would prefer for women to judge me less by my affluence than they do) and International Women’s Day will help change this universal atrocity, but something tells me that this is a more or less permanent feature of humanity and ain’t going to change.

Plus, there is the fact that nobody is twisting women’s arms to buy these products.

The article concludes with the gripe that women are responsible for family planning. The writer must not have noticed the condom displays in the supermarket checkout aisles or have heard about the global campaign encouraging their use. She probably isn’t aware either that many men hate to wear condoms, but do so for the sake of family planning.

Strangest of all is that while the article purports to champion “full equality” for women, it also claims that women are more committed to peace than men. Factually, this claim is dubious. Rates of domestic violence are roughly the same between men and women, women are increasingly becoming soldiers when they are permitted, and it’s not clear that female political leaders are more dovish than their male counterparts.

But suppose this peace claim is true. It amounts to arguing that women are morally superior to men. This is not an argument for “full equality” but rather for female superiority. More than this, it advances sexist stereotypes too, just stereotypes that paint women as superior rather than inferior to men.

We male Neanderthals are often accused of not “getting it” when women make arguments like those in this article, and I for one will admit that I don’t get it. Privately we Neanderthals call diatribes like this “bitching,” although in the company of women we just say “yes dear.” It isn’t though commanding our support.

What would command at least this Neanderthal’s support is a feminist agenda that calls for things like more quality daycares and extracurricular programs, like sports and the arts, for girls. The main unique burden women bear is handling the kids, and for the life of me I don’t understand why anyone would oppose assisting them with this responsibility. Then, the main deficiency in girls’ socialization is a lack of opportunities to develop the self-esteem that comes from pride in accomplishments. Yes, many girls do well in school and develop self-esteem that way, but lots don’t. Crucial is to provide girls with other opportunities to excel in their critical teen and pre-teen years, but these opportunities are often lacking for them while provided for boys. Indeed, self-esteem won through pride in accomplishment is the best protection a girl can have against teenage pregnancy, accepting the role as sex object to men, and otherwise failing to succeed in life.

Cards on the table, I frankly don’t consider myself a Neanderthal at all. Actually, I’d like to think of myself as a feminist. But when feminism is reduced to factually incorrect and morally repugnant bitching, I sometimes tire of saying “yes dear.”

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