On the face of it, International Women’s Day is an overwhelmingly positive international holiday. One of the great crimes of humanity has been repressing half of our population, and so much progress comes from equal rights for women and universal education, as we wrote about here.
Yet something’s wrong with International Women’s Day.
I’ve been bombarded with exclusive offers for massages and spas, there’s been a story on women hosts in Airbnb and even a hedge fund in New York is seeking to get in on the action by installing a statue of a girl on downtown Manhattan.
There have even been some cute trending hash tags on social media such as #BeBoldForChange and #ConnectedSheCan.
All of this was sitting uneasily with me and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized what the problem was.
Singling out a single sex for their achievements is a divisive act. It ends up creating a different kind of patriarchy. We end up with a matriarchy, which could be just as dangerous as what’s come before us.
The way of the future has to be unification of the human species, to find what unites us rather than what makes us different.
For the following reasons, I decided not to celebrate International Women’s Day.
1. We don’t need gender separation anymore
The oppression of women is one of the great crimes of humanity, and it still goes on in many parts of the world.
Yet the crime committed has been seeing one of the genders as inferior to the other.
By singling out the achievements of women, we end up repeating this same pattern but just in a different form.
While it seems innocuous and potentially even positive for some reasons to do so, it’s important that we are clear about our values and live by them in everything we do.
2. The celebrations end up making victims out of women
It’s wonderful to celebrate the achievements of women, but the celebrations invariably end up focusing on the suffering of women. This makes victims out of women, which does little to create the kind of society we want to live in.
3. The solution is to patriarchy is not matriarchy
By celebrating International Women’s Day and emphasizing what makes women special, we end up inadvertently supporting a matriarchal society.
A matriarchal society is a system of society or government ruled by a woman or women.
This would surely be a long way off, but as mentioned before it’s really important that we are clear on what our values are and ensure the incremental steps we’re taking to creating progress are aligned with those values.
Do we really want to create a new system of oppression where males are punished and held back simply for being male? Surely the way of the future is let go of the current ideas we hold about gender so that humans can express themselves in individual and personalized ways?
What you can do
This article isn’t written to argue for the turning back of the clock to a patriarchal time when women were oppressed. That much should be clear.
Instead, we want to help to create conditions of society where individuals are free to express themselves as they see fit. Gender is a very complicated concept and many men want to identify with their feminine qualities, just as much as many women want to embrace their masculinity.
By creating an international holiday celebrating a single gender, we end up inadvertently confusing people by creating gender separation, make victims out of women and support the creation of a matriarchal society.
If any of this resonates, then the best thing you can do when people want to celebrate the achievements of women is to think about their achievements as human beings. Make a mental note to yourself that you’re celebrating this person’s humanity.
There’s no need to shove your views down people’s throats. There are good reasons for having an international holiday celebrating women, considering the amount of oppression that has happened in the past and still happens around the world.
However, just know that by emphasizing the achievements of humans, you’re going to help create some of the change you wish to see in the world.