A usurped International Women’s Day

Posted on March 8, 2017


It’s the 106th International Women’s Day (IWD) today. And it should be a time for every thinking person to take stock of what this day was intended to promote — and what, in the public arena, it has now come to mean.

As the wage and welfare gap internationally has grown and as more and more people fall into joblessness and poverty, IWD has become a public relations exercise in support of what many see as a failing system. So it is no surprise that the 2017 international IWD sponsor is none other than one of the world’s largest financial services and accounting firms, EY (until 2013 better known as Ernst & Young).

And, following recent trends, the financial partners of EY’s IWD range from Pepsico to oil giant, BP, the European Bank. Vodaphone and Western Union. All very much part and parcel of the global economic elite. And this year’s slogan on the various EY websites is “Be Bold for Change”.

This follows last year’s slogan: “Pledge for Parity” and both are a total distortion of the original aims of IWD enunciated by 100 women delegates from 17 countries who established the day in 1910. Because “parity” and “change” mooted by the new, self-appointed organisors of IWD have nothing to do with the abolition of “all privileges deriving from birth or wealth”, which was the originally proclaimed intention.

What the globalised and commercially sponsored IWD promotes is the notion that there should be gender parity within a grossly unequal society; that there should be as many female and male bosses. This approach is underlined by an IWD celebration programme promoted by the Neva Training Alliance: “Secretary to chairwoman: how to get to the top and stay there.”

Then there is the British “Rising Star” project sponsored by the Careers Club that “sponsors future leaders”. It aims “at women aspiring or already in early leadership positions” and claims to “promote gender equality in the workplace”.

This flies directly in the face of one of the most quoted statements of the founding congress: “It is a matter of indifference who is the ‘master’, a man or a woman.” In other words, it was the workplace that should change, not merely the gender ratio of the bosses.

The women who gathered in Copenhagen in 1910 and who started the IWD, recognised that the sellers of labour — both men and women — were exploited. Their commitment was to human equality, not to the equal right of women to exploit or dominate other women and men.

At the same time, they recognised that one of the tactics employed by the exploiting minority to subjugate the majority, was to divide the sellers of labour. A prime and generalised division was in terms of gender. But there was also religious belief, language and skin colour.

The women in Copenhagen in 1910 dreamed of a world of truly equal rights and opportunities, the sort of world encapsulated in the South African Bill of Rights. But it now appears that the IWD they launched has been all but usurped by the very elites it was established to oppose.

Posted in: Commentary