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International Women’s Day: What This Day Should Be About.

Yesterday, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau shared on Facebook her visions for what International Women’s Day in Canada should look like. It read: 

“Are you ready to ignite change? This week, as we mark International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect, and who aren’t afraid to speak up in front of others. Take a picture holding hands with your male ally & share it on social media using the hashtag #TomorrowInHand. Together, we can create a movement that inspires more men to join the fight to build a better tomorrow with equal rights & opportunities for everyone because #EqualityMatters.”

Read this closely: International Women’s Day is not about men.

Allies are important. Crucial, even. No movement can truly succeed without allies getting on board for the cause. The civil rights movement could not have gotten where it is today without white people recognizing its importance and acknowledging they must change their ways; the strength of unions need CEOs to work with them; and trans rights will not be realized without cis politicians advocating for them in the House.

But what Sophie wrote about International Women’s Day is not my International Women’s Day. It is not what I believe should be the focus of International Women’s Day. Let’s break this down:

Who Approved This Message?

Let’s celebrate the boys and men in our lives…”

 Sorry. Let me get this straight. On International Women’s Day, you are asking women around the world to celebrate the men in our lives? That seems a little counter intuitive to suggest we celebrate men during the ONE DAY that is meant to celebrate women.

“…who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect…”

Ah yes. Treating women and girls with respect, encouraging women and girls to be their authentic selves. Gold star for you, gentlemen of Canada! Thank you so much for awarding us the basic human right of equality and showering us with respect.

“…Take a picture holding hands with your male ally & share it on social media…”

Now ladies, this is important. To truly celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, go find yourself a man. (If you don’t have one, oh my gosh, that is so embarrassing.) As a single, independent woman, you really wouldn’t be doing the movement justice. Rather, go hold hands with a man so other men will see your worth and start treating you with respect too!

“…we can create a movement that inspires more men to join the fight …”

Let’s focus on making feminism a movement that is as palatable as possible for men around the world. Women, if you are doing something that makes men feel uncomfortable, like asking them to confront their privilege or getting too ‘loud and angry,’ please refrain. We want feminism to be the George Clooney of movements – everybody likes George Clooney!

Let’s Try This Again

If I was to rewrite Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s blurb (which I will because this is my blog and I am the queen of this cyber kingdom) perhaps this is what I would write:

“Are you ready to ignite change? This week, as we mark International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the women in our lives who inspire us to be who we are without apologizing, who advocate for marginalized and feminized peoples, and who aren’t afraid to speak up against institutional bigotry. Take a picture holding hands with a woman from a different social, political or cultural background & share it on social media using the hashtag #IntersectionalityForIWD. Together, we can create a movement that inspires all of us to fight to build a better tomorrow with equity, justice & equal opportunities because #EquityMatters.”

What This Year Should Be About

This year cannot be about men. No International Women’s Day can be about men.

That’s like Martin Luther King Jr. telling all black people in the US to hold hands with any white person who didn’t kick them out of their restaurant. It is an upsetting notion that we should celebrate the ‘little things’ people do in hopes that they will stop being discriminatory.

International Women’s Day, especially in these turbulent times, must focus on women and femmes who are fighting an increasingly difficult fight. Our male allies provide valuable support, but it is still our fight. To not focus on the selfless, impossible, exhausting work that women and femmes are doing is to devalue our work.

So here is what I say to my male allies: thank you. Thank you for being a part of a movement, even though your life experiences do not compel you to participate. Thank you for recognizing our struggles even though you cannot fully understand them. Thank you for supporting us in the ways we ask you to.

But here is what I say to my male allies today: remember your place. Do what great allies do and stay in the background. Come join us in a march, but let me and my femmes march in the front; let us be the leaders of this movement. Support us, lift us up and cheer us on.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating women.

We get one damn day a year; we are going to keep it.

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