I scroll through my news feed, which is streaming with photos of friends, huge paragraphs, and even posed selfies. Suddenly, I remember – it’s International Women’s Day! Undoubtedly hard to miss, March 8th was accompanied by a barrage of social media posts which lit up our screens with admiration. This deserved appreciation for women cannot go unnoticed; we post about friends, mothers, sisters, teachers – any and every female who has had an impact on our lives. They are strong, independent, and unstoppable.
Disclaimer: I am, without a doubt, a culprit of this culture, too. I posted multiple times about my friends who build me up – and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But it begs the bigger question which, though perhaps controversial, needs to be addressed: how much has International Women’s Day – feminism in general – become commercialised and merely a trend?
Can we still count it as an authentic, should-be inherent mindset?
This notion of authenticity can just as easily be applied to the many holidays which have become, rather than celebrations, a way to “rack up likes” on Instagram posts, or show that we care through glowing Facebook statuses. Snapchat gives us filters, Twitter gives us hashtags, and it almost feels like the social generation has replaced traditional face-to-face interaction. Just look at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween, Easter, Christmas; it’s impossible to escape these holidays because they are relentlessly thrown in our faces by shops and the Internet.
Some are opposed to this commercialisation; others revel in it. And why not celebrate in this way? Flowers, chocolate, and cards all show appreciation, so what’s wrong with it?
The issue: trend. Hopefully without sounding older than my years, I see that nowadays everything is a fad. (Remember the above disclaimer: I am totally wrapped up in the sly, commercial arms that makes it literally impossible to forget a holiday, or a day like International Women’s Day. I have also written long, arguably mushy posts about my friends and their amazing qualities and how much I simply adore them and how I just can’t seem to let the world know enough about them and how I love them more than anything on this world – ever – and….).
This is not all bad: there are parades, gatherings, and other ways in which we show our appreciation in human form. In St. Andrews we have various groups and people standing up for women; on March 8th, these groups (The Feminist Society of St. Andrews, For Her, Her Choice, HeforShe St. Andrews, Sexpression, Women for Women International, and the SRC Member for Gender Equality) organised a day of presentations and performance to celebrate women. And social media in terms of advocating (I found out via Facebook) is hugely helpful and impactful on our generation.
But, does the commercialisation of days like International Women’s Day make it too easy for people to dip in and out of feminism in order to appear ‘woke’? Do people really give the day much thought on the 364 other days of the year? Social media is not the problem in terms of advocating – it arguably helps just that. The issue lies within the ease and with which people can come across as genuine, hidden behind a screen.
Feminism is a controversial topic at the best of times. I am entirely for it, and believe wholeheartedly in equality between men and women, in equal pay and in equal appreciation and treatment. As Emma Watson, in her 2014 UN Speech, said, “I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.” This reminds me of the question I recently tackled for IR; how much does the media rule, influence, and shape us and our decisions? How can we separate genuine from authentic?
When someone labels themselves in this way – when it becomes their identifier – how much are they relying on it for (dare I say) popularity, rather than authenticity? Of course it is important to advocate and show this, and erase the stigma which surrounds so many similar issues, but why should it be such label?
Ultimately, feminism is not a trend, it’s an outlook that shapes how we perceive and treat women alongside men. Social media undoubtedly helps to spread this message, and in a positive way, too! It is, rather, the performance element that makes us rehearse our ‘authentic admiration’ or dedication to feminism.
Next time you encounter a shirt with a huge Feminist slogan on it, stop and think about the origins of this; what more can you can do, besides advertising this, to advocate for the cause? Will you really remember this and apply it to all areas of your life? Will you appreciate and support women every day? Organise marches, movements, write articles – do anything in your power to make your voice heard, and make sure you stand strongly with what you believe in.
Action will get the message across. Women are strong, independent, and unstoppable.