The Three Most Cooked Things to Come From International Women’s Day
By Iris Simpson
As much as I want to love the concept of IWD, it’s never seemed like anyone knows what the concept really is. Is it time to celebrate women? Is it time to paint some stuff pink and call it a day?
What it isn’t, though, is a day in which we critically examine the forces that oppress and persecute women, non-binary folks, and anyone who’s not a straight white man. I don’t think I heard the word ‘patriarchy’ once on March 8th.
So, with that in mind, I’ve looked at three of the most cooked things to happen.
First up is white liberal feminism. They’ve never heard of intersectionality, and they aren’t about to look it up. I’m looking at you, NZ Police Force.
This tweet, which praises Edna Pearce for her role in running a Japanese internment camp, is a pretty classic example of ‘it’s a women’s issue, not a race issue’. The tweet was quickly deleted, but it’s telling that even in 2019, people don’t seem to realise that women of colour exist.
By focusing solely on gender, and ignoring blatant institutional racism, tweets like this one erase women of colour and perpetuate the idea that white women and women of colour are in the same boat, and struggle in the same ways. We white women have a responsibility to acknowledge and critically examine our own privilege, and our positions within a system that, while sexist, ultimately advantages us over women of colour.
Which is why this tweet is so gross. A white woman perpetrating institutional racism is not feminism. This is not girl power.
Second is a classic corporate publicity stunt.
The KCGM Super Pit, which is the largest open-pit gold mine in Australia, set off a pink blast in the shape of the female symbol as the centrepiece of their IWD celebrations.
KCGM is one of the lesser mining evils. They’re okay at getting women into jobs, and they haven’t been involved in any massive environmental scandals (yet). But public stunts like this have a way of elevating a brand’s perceived ‘goodness’ in the mind of the public, turning them from a corporation into a force for good. They don’t have to do any real work on breaking down oppressive structures or fixing their supply chain.
Virtue signalling becomes a problem when it benefits brands that actively profit from broken systems. Capitalism is inherently exploitative, and more often than not large corporations are built on the backs of underpaid women in sweatshops and factories.
Often, IWD is the perfect time for brands to make a generic statement, get some press, and then go back to the same corporate bull as before.
The third thing is Australia just straight up being the worst.
Scott Morrison’s comments on IWD about how “we want to see women rise ... we don't want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse” are pretty typical of a government that has consistently shown it cares very little about women.
Then, a few days later, Australia refused to sign a UN IWD motion supporting greater accountability for human rights violations against girls and women. It included a call for access to safe and legal abortions, comprehensive sex education, and protection of women’s sexual rights.
Australia was elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, and their failure to back this motion, while disappointing, isn’t surprising. Abortion is still technically illegal in NSW, and Scott Morrison’s comments have shown that he won’t be making an effort to genuinely support women anytime soon.
IWD 2019 was pretty disappointing. Mostly, it showed us how far we have to go before we reach genuine equality. Because it’s so vague in its aims and so broad in its focus, IWD fails to make an actual impact, to be at all radical in its message, or to get to the root of the issues affecting women.