Dumbing Down Diversity

I’ve been thinking about this post and whether I should write it or not all day.  In the end I thought that it would be a betrayal (of sorts) to censor myself, just because the subject is likely to be controversial. So, I would truly appreciate any comments or thoughts you have on the subject.

Today is International Women’s Day. And I don’t agree with it.

Let me explain. I actually consider myself, if not a true feminist, then an ardent supporter of equality issues. But therein lies the rub. Equality means that everybody should have equal chances in life, equal opportunities and a right to be treated fairly no matter what circumstances life has thrown at you. I’m not for a moment going to suggest that there ought to be an International Man’s Day to keep balance, as that would be ridiculous, but why do we feel the need to highlight one day a year to celebrate the achievements of around 50% of the world’s population?

OK – strictly speaking, women are a minority but what I fear is that this tokenistic show of support threatens to undermine the ongoing (and sadly likely to be eternal) struggle that the female half of the population have to try and overcome. Great – so we spend 24 hours thinking about women doctors, women inventors, women soldiers, women scientists, women protestors, women pioneers, women musicians, women volunteers and women workers; so who do we think about tomorrow? I’m sure there are more than 365 worthy minorities whose struggles against prejudice deserve recognition at some point in our calendar – as a white, middle-class male living in one of the richest countries in the world I am unlikely to feature in many of them – should I be listening to and celebrating all of them? In a truly egalitarian society, at what point do I draw a line and stop caring?

And on top of that, are there really any long-term benefits to this endeavour? Do we really think that someone who doesn’t view women as an equal will change their views as a result of this day? Or do we think that there is anybody who doesn’t already know that women sometimes have a tough time of it that will hear about it? Will enlisting James Bond himself make an appreciable difference?

Granted there may be specific instances of inequality that may be raised or promoted – but I think using the banner of International Women’s day is facile and actually a bit patronising in a post-feminist world. Does this day make women feel good about themselves? I’d genuinely like to know.

But then again, I’m a white male living in one of the richest countries in the world – so I probably don’t understand the true gravity of the situation.


2 responses to “Dumbing Down Diversity

  • Swisslet

    Allow me, in the interests of balance, to point you to:

    http://www.internationalmensday.com/

    For real.

  • Grant

    So I have to say that while I do understand the sentiment behind a lot of what you’re saying, I still don’t think that things like this are a bad idea. I think a lot of it is to recognize and reflect on the historical mistakes me have made toward minorities. In the US, women were granted the ability to vote less about 90 years ago, which is only 50 years more recently than blacks in the US, and they weren’t even slaves! And the ability for blacks to vote in the US wasn’t even completely supported until the 1960’s!

    I feel that making sure things like this get talked about are good, as there are a lot of uneducated people in the world that just don’t understand how minorities struggle. I was watching a clip from the spokesperson of the Tea Party in the US. She was going on and on about how the founding fathers of the US were against slavery and working hard to try to eliminate it when the country was founded. Clearly, this is ridiculous, as we know that many of the founding fathers had slaves and even had illegitimate children with them. However, there are people (who are running for office nonetheless) who actually have no idea about history. And yes, it’s possible that things like that a day or a month aren’t enough to educate the world, but if we ignore history and what happened, even more people may forget the past.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m part of a minority myself. It’s a slightly different minority, but it’s a still part of a group that can be killed in many parts of the world. And is not pointing this out better than pointing this out because it’s unlikely to change people’s minds? Probably not, because if even one person learns from it then it’s an accomplishment! (At least in my book.)

    And yes, there may be better ways to do this than just having a day, but at least it’s a start!

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