Today is International Women's Day. For many, it is a day marked by little more than an article in Marie Claire, or an e-mail invite to blog about the day. For those of us living in Cambodia, it is a public holiday, on which many schools (including mine) let students and teachers have the day off. Banners over the streets in Phnom Penh read: Women are the backbone of our society and economy in both Khmer and English. I am surprised at the level of public observation to this holiday in a place where women are subjugated so openly.
What does International Women's Day mean? It does not mean that just for today, battered women will get a day off from abuse. It does not mean that women are—just for today—equal to men. It might mean that it is ladies night at all the bars in town, but it does not guarantee a safer night for women anywhere. The hope of International Women's Day, for a gender studies person like me, is that people who are not gender studies people will take half a second to think about the imbalances in societies across the globe. But when is International Men's Day? (Don't get me started).
So how does one celebrate such a holiday? Even though I had plans to do otherwise, I have been a stereotypical woman all day—I went to the gym to work on my girlish figure, ate some chocolate, I complained about a lot of things, and I bought a new two-piece swimsuit (I also wondered if it made me look fat). Mission accomplished. Oh, and I cleaned the kitchen this morning because I couldn't sleep.
So, Happy Women's Day. If you want to do something a little more productive than I did, pick up a copy of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues; or donate clothes, money or time to a women's shelter in your community. Better yet, call your mother.