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International Women’s Day And Its Appropriation


International Women’s Day And Its Appropriation

By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

On March 8, we, the Women of the World, are invited to join the UN to celebrate the 2023 International Women’s Year (IWY). Note, it is We Women, and not the transgenders, cross genders or men who have biologically, psychologically, psychopathically, or worse frivolously converted to being women, who have been invited. While we welcome male and every gender’s or non-gender’s participation in celebrating women, and will always do so, we take issue with the unfair appropriation of ‘our’ day by a third party or gender.

Shame therefore on Canada’s Hershey Company for misguidedly or mischievously inserting into a day of celebration specifically of woman, a transgender as the face of its campaign. To use a transgender to pay tribute to women is the ultimate in male callousness and refusal to recognize women as an identity independent of male – even one that is vaguely male.

There is a rising vicious attempt to obfuscate gender biology and to make gender amenable to transformation, supplementation, and supplantation. This is our one day in the year, and anything male – even if it is someone who was once upon a time male and has now turned female, which or who is used to substitute us women or to lead an international tribute to our gender is grossly unfair and obscene.

Corporate greed to hawk their wares thrives on controversy which generates free publicity. The limited edition “Hershey’s bar of tribute to women” will surely exceed all sales expectations, which is likely the motive behind this mal-tribute to women.

 As a feminist and one nearing the end of average female life expectancy, I can only feel rage at the decline and fall of the female’s exclusive right to March 8th and mourn the erosion of our singular claim to this uniquely woman’s day along with the recognition it is intended to bring us. It is heartening, though, to see the hammering of Hershey’s campaign on social media by like-minded viewers, male, female or other.

Social media users (more likely than not of rightist persuasion) have excoriated Hershey for its blindsiding of woman. Noting the ad’s debut on Wednesday March 1, as part of Hershey Canada’s cleverly worded “Her for She” campaign in honor of International Women’s Day, a Fox news report notes how Transwoman Fae Johnstone – whom the ad cites as a “2SLGBTQUIA+ Advocate” – is seen in the ad promoting Hershey’s new female-themed wrapper. 

Posing with the limited-edition candy bar while providing a voiceover explaining the inclusivity initiative, the transwoman claims, “My name is Fae Johnstone, I’m the executive director of ‘Wisdom to Action. We can create a world where everyone is able to live in public space as their honest and authentic selves.”

Since woman’s identity and the authenticity of her gender were never in doubt, bringing in ulterior goals to her celebration and betterment seems entirely ill-placed.

The ad reportedly ends with Johnstone posing and laughing alongside several biological women, while the voiceover concludes with an invitation for viewers to view Hershey Canada’s campaign on its website. In a final slap to womanhood and to women’s ability to think autonomously, Johnstone beckons viewers to, “See the women changing how we see the future at Hershey’s Canada.”

So, woman’s future globally evidently is now placed in the hands of a crude business-hungry confectionary company. What women are expected to see is not the future they want to envisage but how this arrogant unthinking company – Hershey – envisages and commands it.

The message coming across this appropriation of woman’s entity on a day exclusively assigned to her is that male dominance over female continues. Normally, it would be challenging to be in agreement with ultra conservatives but this one time is an exception. The last word and the most appropriate and pithy summation of the Hershey intrusion into female turf comes from Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton when he contends, “@Hersheys embraces misogyny.”

The substance of this year’s celebration of women as announced by UN, at first glance, is heartening, but like the Hershey campaign it also piles on non-essentials to the goal of women’s progress. The 2023 IWY celebration is anchored on the theme – ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. Like all sectors of work and life, women have remained the ‘Second Sex’ in the digital world as well, with men hogging the field and the limelight.

Almost 50% of world’s women are offline, and globally just 22 percent of artificial intelligence (AI) workers are women. Worse, global analysis of 133 AI systems across industries finds that 44.2 per cent demonstrate gender bias. Expectedly, women suffer more than men from digital abuse. A survey of women journalists from 125 countries cited by UN, notes that 73 per cent had suffered online violence in the course of their work. 

Gender intimidation and harassment are more likely in the digital than in the real world. Social media thrives on mutual denigration and destruction. And the female body and intellect make easy targets for angered frustrated males and non-denominational others. Teen girls and women as a whole likely experience greater sexual harassment and digital hounding than do their male counterparts, causing generally higher suicidal and depression rates among the former.

The UN recognizes the social media’s potential for aggravating gender violence. Its pervasive threat coupled with a lack of legal recourse, as UN rightly notes, too often forces women out of the digital spaces they do occupy, further adding to the exclusion or underrepresentation which they already experience.

From the earliest days of computing to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, as UN points out, women have made untold contributions to the digital world in which we increasingly live. Their accomplishments have been against all odds, in a field that has historically neither welcomed nor appreciated them. A persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential. Their underrepresentation in STEM education and careers remains a major barrier to their participation in tech design and governance. This March 8th accordingly, the UN is calling on governments, activists and the private sector alike “to power on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive and more equitable”.

Alas, the UN too is unable to stay entirely on course with keeping woman the sole focus of this day and year. “Facing a multiplicity of global crises”, it goes on to say, “We have a chance to create a better future—not just for women and girls, but for all humanity and all life on Earth”. The underlying message to women is disheartening in that women’s equal digital participation alone is insufficient. It must include all humanity (in line with Biden administration’s obsession with equity), and it must encompass life on earth (in line with the Biden led global agenda on environment).

This stretched IWY goal clearly undercuts woman’s singularity and betterment as a cause by itself. Like the average housewife all through history, woman today too, must bear the dual burden of ensuring her own and her family’s betterment but also that of humanity and the planet. 

Male domination and malevolence shine through even on a Day meant to be dedicated to women and their wellbeing alone!

(Sohoni is CA-based published author)

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