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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why Google's Women's Day Doodle irked me

Did you see Google's Women's Day Doodle or the Washington Post's list of ways to celebrate Women's Day? Neither represented my idea of Women's Day. Why is it that it is becoming attractive to celebrate Women's Day in a way that makes the majority of women invisible and subjects the rest to patriarchal denigration?

I apologise in advance for this post comes a bit too late. It was written on 8 March but has been published today because it was waiting for a few finishing touches!

Google Doodle for International Women's Day
8 March, 2012
Google's Women's Day Doodle irked me a bit. There was something wrong about its floral and colourful appearance. Not that I hate flowers or bright colours. I love them but how can they be representative of Women's Day?

I had an argument along these lines with a friend a couple of years ago. I noticed bright tulips on her desk on Women's Day. She told me a group of men had taken her and other women out for dinner and given them flowers because it was Women's Day. I found this celebration of Women's Day very bizarre. I mean, isn't this what happens everyday anyway - men take women out, give them flowers and pay the bill? How is that of any significance for Women's Day?

Nestled in its 'Lifestyle' pages, the Washington Post's list of 10 ways to celebrate Women's Day is equally odd. Though it does include protest as one of the way Women's Day could be celebrated, the list is unfortunately a bit lipstick-and-cupcakes heavy. Apparently, a marketing agency has initiated a 'Rock the Lips' campaign encouraging women to wear red lipstick to mark Women's Day. It's only as absurd as the Washington Post's suggestions 'Give flowers to women' and 'Eat a cupcake' to celebrate Women's Day.

Since when has feminism been about eating cupcakes and wearing lipstick? There's so much wrong with these suggestions and ideas at so many levels.

First of all, as a blogger points out, feminism is about 'power and politics and equal pay'. Lipsticks and cupcakes, as far as I understand, are not concerned with any of those. They are, instead, about having  'me-time' in a very consumerist and elitist way. Issues affecting women are much more significant (for lack of a better word) than deciding whether your clothes match your bag or if your lipstick goes with your skin tone.

For millions of women, issues of concern include scraping enough food for the day, getting to work without being sexually harassed and assaulted, ensuring they have a safe place to sleep in the night. In light of this, even the suggestion of celebrating Women's Day by wearing lipstick or eating a cupcake is, to use an extremely mild word, ridiculous, but also quite offensive for it trivialises the lived experiences of a vast majority of women, making them invisible. The majority of women, after all, do not have the choice to spend hours over choosing a bottle of pink champagne, the right shade of red lipstick and flowers that go with their home's decor.

Secondly, obsession over women's appearances (wear lipstick for Women's Day) and sentimentality/frivolity (give women flowers for Women's Day) takes us back at least a century. If ever there was an example of patriarchal celebration of Women's Day (as ironical as that sounds), this would be it.

Thirdly, such suggestions of celebration of Women's Day undermine the political significance and history of feminism. They deliberately gloss over issues that feminists have worked hard to bring to mainstream attention. They subscribe to a postfeminist propaganda that believes (or likes to believe) that women have achieved equality and can have it all. Further, putting women in corsets and high heels to celebrate Women's Day not only reduces women to their external appearances but also takes the focus away from their political projects. It is the market trying to hijack Women's Day from feminism.

Such a celebration of Women's Day is not only classist but also sexist. For me, Women's Day is an opportunity to revisit the relevance of feminism, to celebrate the achievements of women's movements and to assess how much progress (if any) has been made so far. It is also an opportunity for cross-cultural and international dialogue on women's issues, to learn from each other and to renew focus on action.


  1. Great post, I very much agree with you. I think it's important that International Women's Day is an accessible and enjoyable day of celebration for women and men alike, but it's irresponsible to ignore the political pertinence of the day. Cupcakes and lipstick? What a joke.

  2. Absolutely!
    I was horrified to learn (well after the fact) of the existence of the Rock the Lips campaign.