8 March 2023

Why are women tired of International Women's Day cupcakes?

| Zoya Patel
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Women deserve more than a cupcake (they probably baked) on IWD. Photo: File.

I remember a time before cynicism and reality jaded me, when I was enthusiastic about International Women’s Day (IWD).

As an adopter of feminism early in life, I spent my teen years writing for feminist magazines and devouring feminist texts.

In my undergrad years at ANU, I was the Women’s Officer, hosted IWD events, attended luncheons, baked cupcakes. I remember doing stunts in Union Court where we’d offer free donuts to students, and when a man took one, we’d carefully cut a third out of the pastry before handing it over to symbolise the gender pay gap.

We slapped ‘Boycott Sexism’ stickers on advertising that objectified women. We protested Tony Abbott’s comment that generalised women into the category of ‘housewives’ by dressing up in wedding gowns and chaining ourselves to ironing boards.

Eventually, I graduated and worked in the women’s sector for most of my career.

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I expected that I would be engaged in IWD events and activities for the rest of my life as part of my ongoing commitment to feminism. I pictured these as a continuation of our grassroots advocacy in university, but with more rigour and clear, tangible goals. But instead, a decade of participation has left me cynical and even a little contemptuous of the occasion.

Why? Well, it’s hard to choose where to start.

I imagine that, at its inception, IWD was an opportunity to celebrate the wins of feminism in gaining rights for women in employment, suffrage, reproductive rights etc, and to continue to draw attention to the ongoing inequalities experienced by women globally.

But by and large, in a Canberra context, I see organisations using the day to virtue signal their progressiveness without any accountability for gender inequalities within their systems or by actively contributing to issues on the ground.

There is a flood of panels about ‘women in leadership’ catering to middle-class audiences who love to talk about the importance of women on boards or as CEOs as though that makes any difference to the experiences of low-income women dealing with barriers to housing, education and healthcare, which should be the focus of our efforts.

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Social media becomes a shrine to women posting photos with their friends, with hashtags about ‘bossbabes’ and ‘girlgangs’, which disappear a day later when everyone returns to business as usual. And frustratingly, the lunches and morning teas and panels are usually priced at a point that is inaccessible to the majority, require hours of labour to pull together (usually performed by women), and result in nothing meaningful other than the warm fuzzy feeling that lets people justify not doing anything else to address gender inequality for the rest of the year.

I’ve been pleased to see my feelings mirrored by other women this year, with many taking to social media to call out the pointless posturing of corporate events and cupcakes. IWD should be an opportunity for advocacy, awareness raising and lobbying, not self-congratulatory talkfests where the primary objective is a nice photo for Instagram.

I want to see women’s organisations collaborating to leverage the day to speak to decision-makers about the things that affect the most vulnerable women in our community – like funding for emergency housing for women with children escaping domestic violence, increased access to emergency food relief for low-income families, addressing the prohibitive cost of child care, etc.

In the meantime, I’m making donations to Beryl Women and Karinya House, and will be keeping off social media for the sake of my sanity.

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HiddenDragon6:41 pm 09 Mar 23

Well said.

Over the last half century, or so, the Australian feminist movement has increasingly been captured by the self-serving privileged, while the somewhat less privileged still have to wait on, and be content with crumbs from the tables of, the ladies who lunch – a classic case of trickle down.

Quite a timely opinion piece Zoya Patel! There have been a number of articles in RA, ahead of International Women’s Day, which celebrate these contributions. The first was the unveiling of the statues recognising two female pioneers of our federal parliament. There were many people in attendance at the ceremony, including women from all sides of the parliament and Assembly. The second was the ACT Australian Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership presented to Natasha Bullock of the National Gallery. Magistrate Beth Campbell was recognised for her 25 years of service to law and the courts. Renée Leon, Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University and former senior public servant also received a mention, advocating for more women in leadership roles.
Also of interest was the takeover of the Belconnen Golf Club by the Burns Club. As Canberrans are aware, clubs play a significant role in our community. They profit significantly from taxpayer’s money, gambling and profits. All clubs publish annual reports which are available on their websites. It is interesting to note the extreme lack of female representation on the boards of Canberra clubs. Gender inequality remains in the spotlight and is a chronic blot in all aspects of society, including sport. Many women of all ages play sport at these clubs. Clubs should be called out – internally and externally – to do more to end gender inequality.
The ACT government, in its ACT Women’s Plan 2016-26 claims that it is committed to removing barriers to enable more women and girls to take up more leadership roles, in all aspects of society including sports.
The government can do more, and it must, to ensure these clubs are pulling their weight when it comes to female representation in all aspects of their activities!

Haha, never miss a chance to completely change the topic to discuss the things you hate hey Jack?

Always so, so negative.

Billy Monfries11:48 am 09 Mar 23

The feminist movement (man resentment) is indoctrinating impressionable women to see themselves as victims, subservient to a fictional, tyrannical patriarchy. When feminists speak of ‘equal rights’ they are screaming for something already in place. The majority (99%) of bricklayers are men. Is there anything stopping a woman becoming a bricklayer? Surgeons are made up of a 90% male ratio, engineers 85% male and electricians are 95% male in numbers. Are there any restrictions in a democratic society stopping women pursuing these professions? Or are the cries for ‘equality’ and bridging the largely fictional ‘gender pay gap’ conditional to attaining leadership roles in the realms of political and government employment? The argument around women being unable to vote for part of the last century fails to address the fact that this was in fact because men were required to fight on the front line of war. Women were not, voting was the trade off. As someone from a largely military family, the feedback which I received was that this was a good deal. My other half is a professional woman who has seen nasty and vicious attacks largely perpetrated by other women, coincidentally outward feminists. Should she therefore take on a title of anti-sisterhood? After travelling through Japan, South Korea, Italy and Greece, I realised why women in English speaking countries rank so far down the list in the areas of behaviours, trustworthiness and personal value. Women in these countries, particularly Japan, are not outspoken, rude or self centred. They are humble, feminine, polite and consider their actions, and how that could affect their families. As a man, that is of maximum appeal as, they are high value qualities. There is nothing attractive or inspiring in feminism, far from it in fact.

Yawn. Is there any cliché you haven’t used?

@Billy Monfries Perhaps you should take your own advice and relocate to Japan

Billy Monfries4:24 pm 12 Mar 23


Billy Monfries4:25 pm 12 Mar 23

Cliches are 99% truth.

Bob the impala6:59 pm 12 Mar 23

Billy Monfries, would you like a list of cliches which criticize, smear or denigrate men? You just said cliches are 99% truth.

Who could argue with such insight.

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