Not Your Typical ‘Women’s Day’ ContributionBy Claire Barnouin | Wed, 03/16/2022 - 09:00
March, the "Women's month" with its “International Women’s Day,” is the month in which my female peers and I frequently receive invitations to either attend events or talks, or to contribute with a quote or an interview about women in the workplace. I almost always confirm my participation or my attendance with great pleasure and enthusiasm, knowing that in return, I can attract some visibility for the organizations I work for. Ultimately, these brief spotlights of public attention are harmless and most welcomed. I understand it and I try to take advantage of it, both from a personal and a professional standpoint. And yet, I can't help but feel deeply disconnected from the whole “Women’s Day” buzz.
Much to many of my friends’ dismay – and against what seems to have become today’s norm – I don’t consider myself a feminist, at least not a hardcore, fighting one. Although I don't disagree with the idea of highlighting women-related issues, I have always felt some degree of discomfort in doing so, when not given a clear purpose. I don't exactly agree with the “purple” or the “8M” movements that to me, lack focus and are often accompanied by a wide misperception of anger, radicalism, and a general “women’s hysteria” sentiment, all of which I loathe. We have all witnessed the aggressions and unjustifiably violent demeanor during the March protests that never fail to gain most of the media and the public’s attention, wiping out possibilities for unbiased debates on some of the issues that are yet to be solved, like the salary gap, gender equality, parity policies, and female participation in the public place.
Us women are not a cause. The month of October on the other hand, with its pink ribbon campaign, raises awareness of breast cancer and encourages organizations to carry out prevention and detection actions against the deadly disease: this seems more relatable to me, highlighting stakes to a real, urgent, and important cause. Stop right there. I am not saying that women are not important, or that we shouldn’t take action and speak up about injustice and inequalities toward women. Nothing is ever enough, in that sense. However, the cause is not “women.”
Of course, there is tons to do to further the discussion on women-related matters. But no, I am not sold on the purple month. Call me bitter but I resent receiving congratulatory messages on my social networks or my cellphone on the 8th of March. Why? It always makes me feel awkward, and mildly angry. I was born a woman; I don’t expect to be celebrated for it. To me, the overall uneducated approach on this translates into a global lack of understanding of the root subject: women’s rights.
Instead of celebrating women with pastel flowers and glittery e-cards, the common practice in March should be to collectively remember and acknowledge the progress and milestones achieved for women to be treated equal as men, and to reflect on the many advances still to be made. In fact, the correct label to be used is “International Women’s Rights Month.” There are plenty of examples of people, men and women alike, large and small, famous and anonymous, who have achieved substantial change in their society, improving women’s conditions through perseverance, social fights and core-rooted beliefs. This is change from which we all benefit today, without hardly being aware of it. We take so much for granted.
These are the stories I am eager to listen to or to read. I need to connect to real stories, real people, not just big ideals, marching chants or hollow generalities, flaunted on every newspaper, broadcast or social media platform. Don’t get me wrong: I do enjoy learning about others’ life stories and hearing inspiring testimonies: women CEOs, chefs, athletes, social workers, board members, thriving industrial leaders; and I do think of many of them as role models and examples to aspire to. They give me a point of comparison, a “benchmark” to assess my own standpoint and value my situation. We all need people to look up to. Us women need more women to look up to. We also need more women success stories told by men.
I work in a dynamic, motivating, "industrious" environment and yes, to a greater extent, a rather masculine one. I enjoy getting recognition from my teammates, my superiors and my peers, men and women, for the results obtained, the goals met and the ideas shared, every day. I love my job, my family and my day-to-day life. I am very aware of the privilege I live in and the support I receive from my closest circle. I wouldn't change this for anything: I know that I can bounce on a comfortable “safety net” that will support me were I to trip or fall during my work and life journey. I also believe in developing one’s competencies, educating oneself and hard work. Let’s praise achievements, not from a gender stance.
Is it this privilege that prevents me from feeling connected to the "women's month?" I am a professional, a wife and a mother of two, like so many others, with no order of preference or importance. I can't help but think that I have been dealt a great hand, but that I have no special message to convey, no “secret work-balance recipe,” no tips and tricks to share “from a woman’s point of view.” Neither have I stories to tell from the perspective of being a woman in the aeronautical industry, nor any other industry, for that matter. Do I need to educate myself more to participate in the discussions on women’s issues? No doubt. Would I like to enhance the debates with concrete examples, hard data and statistics? For sure.
I would love for everyone to join; please pitch in: What do you or your company do in relation to International Women’s Day? Are you one to give away flowers and balloons? Or do you take more meaningful or fulfilling action in raising awareness on specific issues? What is your stance on today’s discussions regarding “women’s month?” What else would you like to see, hear or do?