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International Women's Day: more about profits, less about issues of patriarchy

twitter-logoPTI | March 8, 2019 | Updated 16:45 IST

New Delhi, Mar 8 (PTI) Some said it with chocolates and roses, others with "fabulous" offers at restaurants, shops and the like and many, including politicians of various hues, with congratulatory platitudes and inspirational messages. On Friday, women were again centrestage as another International Women's Day came around with corporates turning the day into a business idea and many others using the occasion to reach out to one half of the population. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi listed the schemes for women launched by his government and said they played an important role in the making of a new India, Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised to strive for the passage of the women's reservation bill and adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards atrocities on women if his party comes to power. "I am confident that a time of gender equality would come. We ensured women gets the basic necessities of toilets, electricity and gas cylinders to make their lives easy," Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said. Away from the political space, many offices greeted their women employees with chocolates and flowers. As colleagues and friends wished each other "Happy Women's Day", restaurants, gift shops and e-commerce websites left no stone unturned to commercialise the occasion. There was some discussion on issues like safety and empowerment but just not enough, said activists. The day, historically meant to commemorate women's right to vote, became one about 'one plus one' on groceries, free modular kitchens if you buy a house, and a flat 50 per cent off on several designer brands. "These (ads, offers) conform to the stereotype that women are fighting," women's right activist Kavita Krishnan said. Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, said she was almost amused by the efforts to use the day to make profits. She pointed out that women's day was never a celebration of womanhood, but of the struggles and fight against patriarchy. "Women do not want gifts or offers... you should resolve to pay your women equally at work, pledge to fight against sexual harassment," she said. But the offers just poured in. Retail company Bath and Body Works "celebrated women" with a full page ad about a 'Buy 3, Get 3' on select body care and candles. Beauty retailer Nykaa also had a gamut of offers from multiple brands pegged on Women's Day. In gift stores, shelves were lined with cards that screamed out loud how women are "fabulous", "unique" and "incredible", and how they should be celebrated every day of the year. "Woman you're magic. You can truly make a difference to the world. Never underestimate all the wonderful things you're capable of. The impact of your dreams and ideas, your uniqueness, and all you have to offer to the world," read a card by gifts and greetings brand Archies. Some clubs offered free entry for women and a 50 per cent discount, and one sari brand invited its clients to "celebrate womanhood" with well, buying some saris. In an advertisement featuring a sprawling image of what was presumably a picture of a mother-daughter duo, a housing project called its potential customers for a 'Women's Day' special event, tempting them with a free modular kitchen, zero per cent interest rate and an "attractive payment plan". The event at Bahadurgarh also promised an assured gift voucher and a special offer on spot booking. This kind of commodification, according to social activist Ranjana Kumari, undermines the value of the major achievements International Women's Day signifies. The director of Centre for Social Research added that making money in the name of Women's day only sent out a "truncated" message. "There is nothing great about these offers, they are available on all kinds of occasions and festivals. The rights of women have to be realised in families, at workplaces, and in all social circles." Google used inspirational quotes by a series of women, including artiste Frida Kahlo, physicist Mae Jamison as well as Indian boxing champion Mary Kom and the country's visually impaired diplomat N L Beno Zaphine. "Never be limited by other people's imaginations," states a panel with Jamison's quote. "We are too precious to let disappointments enter our mind," Zaphine is quoted as saying. "Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly," is the legendary Kahlo's message to the world of women -- and men. PTI TRS MIN MIN

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