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March 9, 2021

Why I don’t want flowers for International Women’s Day.

It’s International Women’s Day 2021. And I feel irritated.

The messages I receive from my friends (including those who identify as women) all read “Happy Women’s Day”. And I ask myself: What is happy about this day?

We live in a world where, on a global level,

  • we spend three times as many hours on unpaid domestic and care work as men
  • we only hold 28% of managerial positions
  • around one third of us have experienced sexual and/or physical violence by an intimate partner
  • every day, 137 of us are killed by a family member or our intimate partner
  • and 200 million of us have been subjected to female genital mutilation

And countries that pride themselves as being “developed” have not found equality either.

In Germany, the country I grew up in, it’s estimated that over the span of a lifetime, women will have earned half of what men earn, and, because of this, will only receive 53% of the pension and experience poverty in their senior years.

And in the U.S., a country that calls itself the “most powerful” in the world, the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment that was supposed to guarantee equal rights for women, has still not been ratified by all states (bear in mind that its first version was introduced almost 100 years ago). A country where 55% of white women voted for a man who allegedly sexually assaulted 25 of us and is not held responsible, sending out the message that women’s bodies are fair game.

So I come to ask myself: Is the notion of celebrating women by giving them gifts and flowers on women’s day a sign of internalized patriarchy? Are we trying to divert from the facts at hand? Is this a tool to distract from the issues that patriarchy wants us to ignore?

What flowers and chocolates seem to say are “You are being appreciated”. But what if what they’re actually trying to say is “Here you go — now shut up!”

Why should we celebrate the crumbs of achievements that patriarchy handed to us instead of questioning the status quo and not only demand, but take, what we rightfully deserve?

Some may argue that women’s day is about creating awareness around inequality, bodily autonomy, sexual, marriage and reproductive choices, the mad beauty standards patriarchy has set up for us to keep us small and insecure, and celebrating our achievements in these areas.

But I refuse to accept “better late than never”. Why should we acknowledge “how far we‘ve come” when the starting point was never fair or even acceptable to begin with and the road in front of us is too long to even imagine?

Others may argue that, especially on this day, we should uplift each other and voice our appreciation and support for one another.

If that’s the case, then every day should be women’s day.

Every day, we should create awareness and stand up for ourselves and our rights at home, at work, and in our community. Every single day we should uplift one another, unite, gather, and take action.

To me, women’s day is neither a cause for celebration, nor a happy one.

It’s a day to fall down on our knees and grieve those we are losing, to let our anger for those who are responsible for our losses lift us up on our feet once again, and to use our rage as fuel to inform, protest, and fight.

It‘s 2021, and only 55% of us can make their own decisions regarding reproductive and sexual health and rights.

When will this madness end? How long is it going to be until we truly unite?

How long are we going to wait until we dismantle the patriarchy?

Photo: [Author’s own]

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Rebekka Lehmann  |  Contribution: 11,375