Women’s Day? Shame.

Abstract: It’s a pity that women feel they need a Women’s Day…

Women are amazing. History has seen them inspire great poets, rouse battles in their favour and heal the wounds of war. They give birth and they can multitask. All this and do men’s stuff too! The South African woman of today is a far cry from the undemanding hostess of 40 years ago whose sole purpose was to adore and adorn her husband and make him a father many times over. She has been liberated by medicine and the march for freedom to a point where she now has control over her body, her mind and, thanks to Dr Phil, her soul. She is no longer emotionally or financially subservient to any man.

In fact, she has the tools to make herself more powerful. Walk into any newsagent and you will see a vast mural of magazines proclaiming an infinite number of ways in which a woman can better herself: Play the Stockmarket! Take Control of Your Life! Get the Man You Want! Feed the World! Lose those Kgs! Today’s woman has what it takes to be smarter, faster, fitter, slimmer, wealthier, sexier and more beautiful than ever before.

She still has two arms, two legs and a brain and an employment market that wants her. The age of ‘Superwoman’ is here. So, what’s the problem? Why do women still need a day dedicated to them? Why do we pretend they are these poor delicate creatures that need a hand up? Why is it that we announce the appointment of a woman senior executive as if she’s a toddler taking her first steps? “Look what we’ve got everyone – a new CEO – and she’s a woman”. So what? Why not? Isolating a woman because she does what a woman does and because she’s where a man normally is, is condescending. It’s like saying, “Look what we’ve got everyone – a new scrumhalf – and he’s black”.

We have a wonderful constitution that champions equality. So why promote inequality? Why do we need a Women’s Day to thank women for being our mothers – mothers of men, mothers of the struggle? Ever since evolution or creation mothers have been women. It’s Mother Nature’s design. Whether a man, woman or child, we each have our struggles and challenges. That’s life. Like men, women deal with it, because they can and because they are able.

If we are to set aside a public holiday let’s rather do it for those who can’t because they are disabled. Let’s set aside a day not for those whose destiny is motherhood, but for those whom fate demands will need constant care. Let’s not reflect on the struggle of those with the genes of a woman but consider the very real battle to breathe for those with cystic fibrosis. ‘Glass ceiling’? What about those who can’t see in a mirror? What about those who will never hear their own children sing? I challenge any person to cradle the head of a child with cerebral palsy, whose body God has cruelly twisted, and say “oh, boy do we deserve Women’s Day”.

The main reason we celebrate any public holiday is to respect an historical, religious or cultural event and to confront the issues it presents. What about a day to confront our demons: our attitudes towards those who desire nothing more than to be accepted and loved. A day to face how they feel when we shun them for fear of catching something. A day to understand the trials they endure every minute. A day they can emerge from where we hide them and come and play in the sun.

Disabled Day: Free access to any and every cinema and theme park for those in wheelchairs, with properly trained staff to assist them. A special symphony concert at the lake for those unable to see, with rich intricate sounds they can embrace. Displays of artwork of those unable to hold a brush in their hands. Workshops at malls where people can pause for a few minutes from their shopping and learn some essential sign language – ‘Hi, pleased to meet you. How are you?’

Women are conquering the world and so they should. Not because they’re special, but because they are more than able. Cathy O’Dowd made the summit of Mt Everest because she can. Bernard Goosen – the first paraplegic to claw his way to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro – did so because people said he couldn’t. Let’s rather have a day for people like him.

Published in the Saturday Star on Saturday 21 August 2004