National Women’s Day in South Africa is a day of commemoration of the 20 000 women who staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the pass laws that effectively prevented the free movement of black South Africans in their own country.
These women were exceptionally brave to be fighting a system that had already shown its deep disdain for anyone of colour. They were championing the cause of justice, they were banding together in the face of adversity to make a statement and many of them were doing this while they carried their babies on their backs – fighting for the rights of their people while caring for the next generation.
These are women to be remembered and celebrated. And that’s what National Women’s Day is all about. I count among my friends many women of this generation, who, while there may be less cohesive evils to battle against, I believe would stand and fight if faced with oppression and exploitation. This is a characteristic worth celebrating.
My friend Kate worked herself up into a rage on Facebook this morning over one of these group buying companies that sent her a Women’s Day special offer for sex toys, lingerie, slimming underwear, jewelry and kitchen stuff. Now, far be it from me to say that I don’t like kitchen stuff and jewelry, but Kate’s point, which I agree with, was that there is so much more to celebrate about women than their outmoded roles as cooks and sex objects.
But, rather than haranguing those who have reduced Women’s Day to yet another sentimental, consumerist, Hallmark card fest (oops, I think I just did), I thought I would instead suggest a few feminine attributes worth celebrating:
1. The ability to juggle, as best we can, the demands of family and professional life.
2. The maternal instinct, applied to every marginalised or downtrodden group, in a way that finds a solution and fights for it.
3. The stretching of ourselves, just a little bit further, to participate in volunteer or charity work.
4. The way that we involve ourselves in neighbourhood, school and work activities, affirming a sense of community in an increasingly insular society.
5. Our strength – the way that we pick ourselves up after being knocked down, and continue to climb over obstacles, because if we don’t do it for ourselves, who will?
6. Our intellectual capacity and the fact that we can take advantage of educational opportunities to become anything we want to be.
7. That we love our friends, our partners, our parents and our children deeply.
8. That we rush to be there for our friends, whether they need us for a gripe about their bosses, or because their lives are genuinely falling apart, and we take ownership of their disasters as if they were our own.
9. That there were those who went before us who fought for equal rights, the vote, equal pay and the right to self-determination, and that we can draw from their strength today in fighting injustice and in choosing how we want to live our lives.
10. The fact that we are women. We are different, but in no way inferior, to men. Aren’t we fantastic?
So, by all means, spoil your partners, your employees, your mothers, your daughters, your friends and each other this Women’s Day, but don’t for a second lose sight of what it really is that you’re celebrating.