Mar 102015

wd-long-images-250Last year was the first I heard of International Women’s Day — several colleagues confirmed it’s relatively unknown in the U.S.. This year, when #internationalwomensday started trending a few days ago, I clicked.

Of course, hashtags are only an indication of what people are talking about on Twitter, but based on that hashtag, I learned International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s “beauty” with selfies — particularly makeup/no makeup selfies.

*grumble* *grumble* *grumble*

Intellectually, I understand celebrating body diversity and encouraging body acceptance and positivity are important parts of larger efforts for equality. I understand selfies can be empowering (and for the purposes of concession, I’m going to ignore the many disparate political and semantic interpretations of “empowerment”).

But good god… there were so many… SO MANY SELFIES.

Selfies with accompanying text: “beautiful with or without makeup,” “beautiful even with natural hair,” “beauty at any age/size/color/type,” “beautiful with no filters,” “beauty is what’s on the inside,” etc. (ad infinitum).

Intellectually, I get it. But emotionally (and maybe spiritually), I felt like putting my my fist through a wall.

Is acceptance and celebration of appearance what we find most empowering? Is there anything else? I’m sure there is, but I didn’t see much evidence in the avalanche of selfies.

I saw a few mentions of strength, fewer mentions of intelligence, but little else. Those characteristics and attributes (some seemingly natural talents, others hard fought and won) are important, but they’re what women are, not what women do.

Yes, women, you are beautiful. But what about what you do?

What about the diploma you earned? the garden you planted? the child you raised? the bread you baked? the book you finished? the finish line you crossed? the math test you passed? the poem you wrote? the scarf you knitted? the guitar you play? the meal you made? the art you created? the problem you solved? the product you developed?

It’s maddening that the few vague mentions of talent or achievement were merely contributing factors to what makes a woman beautiful. While beauty is semantically flexible, it seems reductive and counterproductive to describe everything in terms largely connotative of aesthetic standards. Can’t we use special, or important, or valuable instead?

A woman’s qualities and characteristics are important unto themselves — not simply in support of what makes her beautiful. More than that, her qualities and characteristics are important not simply because they make her who she is, but also, because of what she does with them.





GRUMPY-CAT-FUCK-THE-PATRIARCHY-4Post published courtesy of my grumpy inner feminist, who wants to remind you:

Hey kids, get off my lawn!
and also… maybe take fewer selfies… and instead of simply describing yourself as beautiful, maybe you could describe yourself as talented, smart, creative, hard-working… all those things…


  6 Responses to “sure, women are beautiful (but what else?)”

  1. I was going to ask this question about what the US knew of International Women’s Day as I saw almost no comment at all on any blog. Well you have answered the question and I’m not sure why it would only be as you described.

    In Australia it is so much more. I have provided a link to a TV program that ran on Monday that I think better describes my understanding of the intent of the day and it has nothing to do with selfies. I normally loath this program but I watched it. I wanted to hear what women thought and what they were hoping to gain through International Women’s Day. Link –

    I believe this now sits under the UN. The theme of these days since 1996 is copied below.

    Year UN Theme
    1996 Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future
    1997 Women and the Peace Table
    1998 Women and Human Rights
    1999 World Free of Violence Against Women
    2000 Women Uniting for Peace
    2001 Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts
    2002 Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities
    2003 Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals
    2004 Women and HIV/AIDS
    2005 Gender Equality Beyond 2005; Building a More Secure Future
    2006 Women in Decision-making
    2007 Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls
    2008 Investing in Women and Girls
    2009 Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls
    2010 Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All
    2011 Equal Access to Education, Training, and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women
    2012 Empower Rural Women, End Poverty and Hunger
    2013 A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women
    2014 Equality for Women is Progress for All
    2015 Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!

    • I was going to ask this question about what the US knew of International Women’s Day as I saw almost no comment at all on any blog.

      I can’t speak for the whole country, but most of my colleagues had never heard of it. The only ones who were familiar are expats from the UK.

      my understanding of the intent of the day and it has nothing to do with selfies.

      Ha! Yeah. I get that. :)

      I read up on it. My statement about IWD being all about selfies was tongue-in-cheek.

      What I meant is that from the conversation on Twitter, one would think IWD is all about asserting ‘beauty’ and some sort of ’empowerment’ through selfies… since that was the majority of what I saw.

      I intended to suggest (albeit implicitly) the disparity there — between selfies and women’s value/rights… the chasm between the lofty ideals of feminism (suffrage, income equality, education, access to health care, safety, etc.) and what is communicated by a bunch of selfies and platitudes about “beauty” (seemingly narcissistic stuff absent of feminism’s larger goals).

      In other words, while ’empowerment through selfies’ is certainly valid, it sort of misses the point about asserting the value of women and women’s work (which is a different sort of empowerment, perhaps one that is closer to IWD efforts).

      Knowing the bare minimum about the historical context and current goals of IWD, the flood of selfies rubbed me the wrong way.

      I believe this now sits under the UN.

      I believe the UN participates, but I’m not sure IWD “belongs” to the UN (despite giving it an “official theme.” I’m not well-educated on it, but it seems Women’s Day started in America in the early twentieth century in response to women’s labor issues. UN participation is a relatively recent development, all things considered.

      Also, strangely (I think), what appears to be the most content rich website on IWD (“a global hub for sharing International Women’s Day news, events and resources”) was created by Aurora Ventures — a sort of marketing/recruiting firm aimed at women (both as audiences and as potential talent). According to that site, the 2015 theme is “make it happen.”

      The conflict between the UN theme and IWD website theme is what urged me to look into it (though I’m not sure what to make of it).

      Anyway, rest assured, I do understand that IWD isn’t about selfies… though perhaps, I communicated that poorly. :)

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I agree that yes resisting social conventions of beauty is *an* element of empowerment but what I like about my body and it’s fitness is what it can do. I am incredibly privileged. I am white, able bodied, cis, English as first language, professional and well educated in a job I love. And what I do is more important to me. But I also like what I look like.

    It’s also worth remembering that international womens day started as interantional women workers day – to acknowledge issues of class in all this. But the worker element was dropped because it was seen to exclude women who wanted to work but couldn’t. Of course this is a problem with society if we don’t recognise women’s domestic and caring labour as work so maybe the original name should be kept?

  3. Agree with your witty commentary. Also, as a complete side note: love the grumpy cat fuck the patriarchy.

  4. I find it to be rather a shame that such a day is even in existence. I mean. let’s face it, There will never have to be an “International Rich White Guy Day”, and why?… It’s because EVERY day is your day when you’re a rich white guy.

    To take it a step further, it seems to me the the only real purpose of an international day just for women, is that it allows the patriarchal powers that be, the ones who have determined societal “norms”, to show beneficence to half of the human species. It’s where women get to say; “Hey!, I’m beautiful too!”… To which they can then reply; “Yeah, sweetie, you look great. Now get back in the kitchen and make me a sammich.”

    It reminds me of “Black history month, where the people upon who’s backs we built this country get to stand up and take their place among the rest of our society before being told to shut the hell up and go to the back of the historical bus where they belong.

    My point is this; Human society must be able to change and adapt in order to continue to evolve, and to do that we will need ALL of our parts. When half of us are considered to be little more than chattel, arm candy, or baby factories, a vast amount of human creativity and innovation is being wasted, leaving all of us much less prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

    By the way, there will never be an “International Cranky Old Bastards Day” either. We are just too loud to be ignored.

    • Unfortunately, survival isn’t the natural ally of equality. It’s not a universal truth like gravity.

      Equality is something that society needs to strive for, and so while it’s easy to scoff at an “International Women’s Day”, it’s at least … something.

      While I find the treatment of women in societies around the world to be somewhere between disappointing and disgusting, there has to be within global organisations like the UN a degree of realism and pragmatism in order to achieve anything.

      I don’t have any easy answers. When leading global religions have females as secondary characters then you know things are going to be tough. If even cold, hard fact like evolution can be rejected them more abstract ideas like gender equality are in for a tough time …


      A. Sadperson.

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