Ask yourself a question: Have you ever spoken to a woman? Like a living, breathing human female? I know they are rare, mystifying creatures, nymph-like princesses that float around town looking sexy and mysterious. But search your memory – and I mean really search it – have you ever had a full conversation with one? And if so, did you listen?
Because some women in China are starting to think that you haven’t.
Happy International Women’s Day! The holiday, originally founded in 1911 to promote feminism and gender equality, has been co-opted in China by business owners looking to cash in on festivities by reducing women to stereotypes and sex objects.
According to the UN, “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” And the official website for International Women’s Day says March 8 “marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”
Stereotypes do not accelerate gender parity; they slow it down. Yet all across China (and probably the world too), business owners rely on sexist marketing strategies to profit off this holiday. Bars offer discounted pink, flowery cocktails; bakeries make special cakes adorned with drawings of high heels and lipstick; restaurants hand out chocolate-covered strawberries and roses. Then there are the otherwise totally-OK events whose advertisements feature images of conventionally attractive women in ballgowns twirling like the dainty princesses that they are – or, worst of all, naked. We even saw an advertisement for discounted pelvic exams at a pricey Western gynocology clinic. Fun!
It's OK to have a promotion for women’s day, but there’s something seriously troubling about using stereotypes and trite imagery on the one day of the year dedicated to combating this.
I can't believe I have to say this, but here I go: International Women’s Day deserves to be taken seriously! In a year in which the government of the so-called ‘free world’ is tightening its grip on reproductive rights, and the president of said country has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women, this is hardly an antiquated issue, nor is it a case of us at That’s turning into the so-called ‘PC Police.’ No – this is a matter of respecting human beings.
Fortunately, several Chinese venues are hosting events more in line with the spirit of the holiday. These places get one, crucial thing right: We ladies like free drinks and cheap meals, sure, but we'd take universal respect for our inalienable rights over free champers any day.
Even SEO-optimized purveyor of basic information, wikihow.com, knows: “International Women's Day isn't just about giving a flower to a woman you appreciate and telling her she's great,” the site reads. “This day, March 8, is a symbol of the struggles that women around the world have undergone to gain equality and rights and a reminder of how far there is still to go.”
Damn, how far there still is to go.