International Women’s Day is Coming
And, predictably, so are the men who are terribly upset by the concept.
A friend posted on her Facebook page about an International Women’s Day event hosted by her employer. She was frustrated and irritated because the keynote (and only) speaker booked for the event is a man. On raising the issue with the organiser, her concerns were swept aside. She was told that it is important that we include men in these events.
Let me say it again: this is for an International Women’s Day event.
I don’t have a problem including men in International Women’s Day events. It makes sense. They can come along, we can all discuss problems like toxic masculinity, rape culture and what such things have cost society and women in particular. Maybe we can all throw around some ideas on how to change things for the better, you know? The Patriarchy isn’t gonna smash itself, after all.
Of course, International Women’s Day isn’t just about getting together to talk about men. There are so many issues facing women globally that we should all be talking about. Men can and should be a part of those conversations. But should they be leading the conversation on women’s issues? Because making a man the main speaker at an International Women’s Day event is allowing just that, when you think about it. Why is this man better placed to speak about women’s issues than a woman would be? He has no lived experience as a woman, for starters.
That doesn’t mean he won’t have anything of value to bring to the table, but on International Women’s Day of all days, his thoughts and ideas shouldn’t be the central focus. We should be using IWD events to hear from women whose voices are rarely amplified; women of colour, LGBTIQA women, women who have disabilities. We should be listening to women who are survivors, advocates, activists, educators and more. This isn’t the day to hear what some bloke (however well-meaning) thinks about issues that don’t effect him.
The event organiser in this case is a woman, which is disappointing but also kind of understandable. There is a widely held belief that we need men on board to bring about change, and we probably do to a point. Including men in IWD events is great, but prioritising their voices over women’s voices is misguided at best. I think sometimes things like this happen when organisers want to avoid backlash from butthurt blokes who resent the idea of an International Women’s Day in general.
Predictably, a couple of guys showed up on my friend’s post who saw no problem with a man giving a keynote speech at an International Women’s Day event. He was invited, after all. The idea that perhaps a real ally would decline the invitation or suggest a woman should give the keynote address was met with incredulity. If a man is invited to speak somewhere, it’s apparently not even partly his responsibility to assess the appropriateness of doing so. Expecting a man to be responsible for his choices in this scenario is, I’m given to understand, quite unreasonable.
The handful of guys commenting on my friend’s post, defending a man being given the only speaking role at an International Women’s Day event, were no different to those I see complaining about it all over social media every year. The thought of a day for women, run by women, without a man’s input, seems to infuriate some men. A day where they aren’t the focus is quite confronting and threatening, judging by the outrage.
The excuses always come thick and fast in these conversations. The minimising of the issue with whataboutisms, the exhortations to calm down (when the only seemingly angry people were the men involved) and the downplaying of sexism that women face in general. Gender equality, we were told, is not really a problem these days. They would know, these men who think that one day per year that is not about them is the very height of sexism. Women, we were told, have the same, if not more, rights than men.
Maybe it’s my tiny woman-brain but I can’t think of one example where women have more rights than men do, personally. But we do get an International Women’s Day, which is apparently pretty outrageous because:
I would lay money on the following: the number of men who know about, organise, publicise and attend International Men’s Day events is a tiny fraction of the number of men who complain about International Women’s Day, usually to women, both online and face to face.
Today is International Womens Day, sexist crap. When is International Men’s Day??? I’ll tell you never will be, the feminists would protest.
— Gordon Baird (@Gordon_Baird) March 7, 2017
For the record, blokes, your day is November 19th and has been for over 20 years. If you want it to become a bigger deal, go for it. Quit complaining about women’s events and put the work in.