A CRAFTY commercialisation is capitalising on the spirit of International Women’s Day. In opposition to the notion of objectifying and productising women, as we have witnessed over the decades, in films and on the media and in other public platforms, on this day in particular, the celebration of womanhood has been turned into a scope for profit-seeking business entities that ‘apparently’ are the sympathisers and celebrators of womanhood too!
Two days ago, I saw that a university lecturer, a woman — rather new, however, a teacher after all — had shared a posting on Facebook, by an online business page that sells makeup products — makeups are products that are either decidedly or emphatically put on the market, to be noted — to make women look ‘beautiful’, all the while fooling the women into thinking that they will be more appreciated or valued if they look better.
The online page advertised the spirit of Women’s Day by asking women to share their postings and, among them, some lucky winners will be given makeup products free for six months. The posting has been shared on Facebook 2,200 times. The question remains: how exactly do these 2.2k people who shared the posting capture or celebrate the spirit of womanhood? Who is fooling whom?
A range of lucrative discounts and deals are offered, starting from diamonds (diamonds are a girl’s best friend, not her wit, intellect, hard work, another fraudulent idea), gold and jewellery, in general, saris and dresses, services of beauty parlours, women’s accessories, flowers and what not? Women deserve everything nice and beautiful, which must cost a lot, and, more often than not, paid for by the men.
The same media which advertise, before and after Women’s Day, costly diamonds and gold and other precious gems, for men to buy for their ideal woman, for their ‘woman of substance’, do make women the lead in advertisements for washing powders, dish washers, even for toilet bowl cleaner. We see the empowered women are appreciated by their husbands, family or the people from neighbouring houses, flooding them with compliments for doing an excellent job in keeping the husband, the in-laws, and the children happy. A bipolar media stance — hypocritical and fraudulent, of course — taking whichever course serves their purpose best.
Now are we celebrating it right if such an event has been devised in a way to sell everything, including the concept of the struggle of women? If we look at the group of people concerned in Bangladesh who believe in having a day only for women, we see that either the elite class or the educated class take part. Privileged women are given the respect of being women, on television, on the media and on social media, et cetera. The offers everywhere are entitled to men and women who can afford.
But as for marginalised groups of women, who are hard-working or need to work hard, who are almost on the edge and surviving like that, providing for the family equally or more than the husband does, adding to the revenue of the state, where do they, at such vigorous celebrations, fit in? If we cannot see them participating in anywhere actively, if Women’s Day shows a group of nice-looking women on purple only, we have probably sold our womanhood to the devil, the disguised patriarchy that is.
Talking about a disguised patriarchy, the commercialisation does not confide itself in selling products or services only, but it rather gives birth to a hidden competition. A woman of status or class has to be appreciated so, like a princess or a queen; and that job is of the men. On failing, is he really deserving of a woman like that? This value of women, rather materialistic, placing them on a high pedestal, makes them products, things of interest, which can be convinced, bought and handed over in exchange for material value.
While our women and girls are concerned with which brand of purple sari to wear this Women’s Day, which parlour to go for getting dolled up, which once-in-a-lifetime discounts to bag, which lavish restaurants to dine in, our boys and men are busy planning the same for their women in life, mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, or a friend, I believe some of them have an honest intention of dedicating a day to these important people in their life — we are consciously keeping the concern out. The concerns may be, if you look at it, the incidence of child rape going sky high, girls getting raped in running public transports, ethnic women being treated like a plaything and being stripped of their dignity, justice still not being ensured in Tonu’s murder, underage girls being married off, an increased rate of suicide among girls, public shaming of girls for the same follies that they may have as their male counterparts, et cetera.
The gullible sense of pride we take in our womanhood has also mangled the way we perceive other women. Has it somehow become the case that we see and judge women the way men judge us or the way men want us? Putting commercialisation issues aside, girls criticise girls for not fitting in the established sphere of woman, the ideal woman in our society. A free spirit will be tried hard to be brought down to earth and scatter them into thousand pieces.
There are programmes, events and conferences, which add a little value to that of the day’s. Appreciating women’s participation and cooperation, looking back at the protests and revolutions that took place over a hundred years ago and after that, speaks of their sacrifices, critical thinking on how women might proceed from here, analysing the socio-cultural and economic position of women and ensuring that they get their stake back in society, and most of all, effectively executing all this — these are all that in effect need to be in focus. This year’s theme for women’s day is ‘Press for Progress’. May that be the spirit for the rest of the year and just for a day, along with working towards achieving gender parity, not making the parity a product to be bought.
Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree is a member on the New Age Youth supplement team.
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