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Supriya Dwivedi Headshot

Is International Women's Day an International Joke?

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Today is International Women's Day, and although you might notice the requisite "Let's Empower Women and Girls" op-ed on your social media news feeds, the truth is that this day is more or less a farce. It's a day where society can say they have talked about "women's" issues for a day in order to make themselves feel like they have contributed to the betterment of humanity.

Note the use of quotations. That's because I'm systematically flabbergasted as to how certain facts are perceived to be solely a women's rights issue and not a human rights issue. If any other race, religious organization, or linguistic group were treated in the same manner as women are worldwide the entire planet would be up in arms.

But the fact remains that 48 women are raped every hour in the Congo, global estimates predict that women aged 15-44 are more at risk for rape or domestic violence than from cancer, malaria and car accidents combined, 140 million women and girls have been subject to the barbaric cultural ritual of female genital mutilation, and millions of girls are missing in India due to a societal preference for sons.

There is always the inevitable ensuing commentary from men's rights groups, douchebags and the women who date them, and old white man opinion writers who manage to ask the inane question of why there is no international men's day. (For the record, I suspect these are the very same people who ask why there is no white history month.)

This past year was the year that the President of the United States had to go on television to explain that "Rape is rape," where we all learned what a trans-vaginal ultrasound was, and whereby the Canadian political discourse was hijacked by backbench Conservative MPs in their incessant mission to shove the abortion debate down the public's throat.

Growing up, feminism was never an issue that my mother discussed with me. Its teachings were simply ubiquitous. Whether she was telling me that the archaic notion of women being subservient to men in our South Asian culture was something that I was never expected to adhere to or that I should always speak up if I have an opinion. Feminism's fundamental tenant, gender equality, was omnipresent in my household.

Looking back, I think that is one of the greatest gifts my mother could have imparted unto me. In making the notion of feminism and its values all-pervading I never fell victim into believing any of the negative connotations associated with the dreaded F-word. As an adult, when I tell people I am a feminist I am often met with varying degrees of incredulity and disgust. I suppose this is because the political right did such a good job of vilifying the women's movement that now the mainstream media feels the need to precede the word feminist with militant.

The civil rights movement would have never have happened had Dr. King said, "Well, I sort of have a dream...I think. I guess we should be judged by the content of our character. But maybe it's OK if we all just strive for almost equal. You know, same same but different."

Perhaps it's time we stop allowing for this kind of logical fallacy when it comes to gender parity. Maybe then International Women's Day will be treated with the respect it deserves instead of being the joke that it is. Well, maybe not a joke in the same way that Daniel Tosh tells a good ol' fashioned rape joke. Violent, forced vaginal penetration. Super hilarious, bro.

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