Challenging the trivialisation of National Women’s Day

On August 9th, 2015, posted in: Achievement, Challenge, Featured, FemSoc, News by

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womensdayEvery year, on the 9th of August, South Africans celebrate National Women’s Day to commemorate the march of women of all races to the Union Buildings in protest against the country’s pass laws in 1956. The women left bundles of petitions with over 100 000 signatures at the office doors of the prime minister, and sang a song composed specifically for the occasion: “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo” – “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock”. The latest incarnation, “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”, has become an iconic phrase to represent the strength and courage of women in South Africa.

So how do we celebrate this important occasion? Go for a spa day? Demand breakfast in bed? Take a long bubble bath? As fantastic as these suggestions sound, they completely defeat the purpose of National Women’s Day. It would be important to note that this day celebrates and commemorates the bravery of the women who played an important role in the struggle by WORKING for something. So why on earth is it so widely recommended that women lie around doing nothing besides enhancing their appearance on this day? It’s quite apparent that the answer lies in the portrayal of women and feminine stereotypes over the years.

According to stereotypical gender roles, the best way to celebrate identification as a woman is to enhance the characteristics deemed important and valuable to femininity, such as physical appearance and gentle, submissive behaviour. As the feminine portrayal is generally soft, weak and emotionally unstable, it makes sense that celebrating womanhood involves moisturising, being pampered and doing things to feel warm and fuzzy inside our fragile hearts.

But this day is a good day to remember our strength and capability of doing great things. This is not to say that women should commemorate this day with hard work, but rather that they should not forget their immeasurable capabilities and strength ingrained in their very cores. So in the midst of the Women’s Day specials offering you two cups of tea for the price of one and a free sponge with your bath salts, women of South Africa: you are reminded of your solid, rock-like strength, and the courage of your forebears which led you to where you are today. Let’s be proud to be women! And celebrate what is truly valuable in us.