My feminist ideal can be seen in almost every aspect of my life: what artists I choose to listen to, what artists I choose not to listen to, who I surround myself with, how loud I feel like I have to be at family gatherings, whose name I put in a tiny envelope behind the polling booth curtains. All of these choices are made based on my personal convictions and sensibility. But when it comes to 8 March, it would appear that my personal beliefs are not the only factors in my understanding of what it stands for, but that there is also a strong French context at work here.

Is it me, or is it just French?

To me, and to a large majority of French people, 8 March is La Journée Internationale des Droits des Femmes, which translates to International Women’s Rights Day. There is just a one-word difference with what the rest of the world calls International Women’s Day, but it surely has shaped my understanding of this day and the angle through which I see it now and have approached it before.

I enjoyed the celebrations as a kid. I enjoyed the flowers, my male classmates complimenting us girls, and everyone wishing us a great day. I even think that a random 8 March in the late 2000s was the first time I felt a sense of sorority rushing through me – that feeling of being a girl, of belonging, of sharing something deep with a group of people I knew nothing about. 

But with the sorority also came the devastating, world-crushing, unfair realisation of why this day was needed in the first place. And then I was introduced to sexism, misogyny, and the good old pay gap – enough to make my 8-year-old blood boil.

Then I grew up, and read a lot of things online. I vividly remember seeing testimonies on hashtags such as #WhyIStayed and #AskHerMore. I remember looking at the statistics on women in positions of power, on gender-based violence, on girls becoming child brides, on how women are more likely to suffer from car crash injuries because safety features are designed for men – and the list goes on. I remember seeing, for the first time, pictures of women protesting: fists up, demanding equality. Apparently, my strong sensibility to all of this made me a “feminist”. And I loved it. I started paying more attention to the international dimension of 8 March. It made me think it could have a huge impact all around the world. Simultaneously, I focused more and more on that small word: “rights”, which I thought mattered just as much, if not more, than the others. More, I thought, this is what I needed. More than the thank yous, the congratulations, and the platitude about how women are so strong and important. 

Thus, International Women’s Rights Day became more of a political day to me, and stopped being about celebration. 

To put it into perspective, I am the “Valentine’s Day is too commercial” of 8 March. 

International Men Being Hypocrites Day

I don’t like that on this day, men give us roses on the street when they were catcalling us two days ago. Is the rose a sorry for yesterday or an apology for tomorrow?

I don’t like that radio stations play tunes by female artists for the whole day when all-female acts receive less airtime than their male counterparts the rest of the year. In 2020, all female acts made up only 20% of the top 50 British artists played in the UK, according to The Guardian. Coincidently (or is it?), women working in the radio industry also face gender-based obstacles in the workplace, with 84% of respondents to a study led by Radio Silence and Women In CTRL saying they feel that it is harder for women to progress professionally in this field. 

I don’t like that men go around yelling that everything is always about women.

When is there ever going to be an International Men’s Rights Day? when they purposefully ignore their male friends’ cries for help and higher likelihood of dying of suicide. In 2020, men had a rate of death by suicide 3,8 higher than women did, according to a Eurostat study.

I don’t like that politicians use this day to their benefit and to the glory of their party by giving speeches on how it is our job, as a nation, to ensure that women are safe from domestic abuse and any kind of gender-based violence when these same politicians publicly support our aggressors if they contribute to the cultural standing of their country. And who knows, if they’re lucky, they might even end up being elected as ministers! 

Dear Emmanuel Macron, enshrining the freedom to get an abortion in the constitution on 8 March (which is far different from the right to get an abortion, by the way, as getting an abortion is now legal, but a fair access to it is not guaranteed) in a heartfelt speech on women’s safety is not as impactful when it was preceded, a few weeks before, by yet another speech on how you are a great admirer of Gerard Depardieu, the French actor caught on camera making sexualizing comments about a twelve-year-old girl, and accused by at least five women of having sexually assaulted them.

So instead of celebrating, instead of saying thank you for the rose, thank you for passing that law, thank you for promoting female artists, I read, post, make demands, have discussions, and will be doing so for as long as there is a need for an International Women’s Rights Day to exist.

Switching up my habits?

This year, I spent 8 March at a comedy show in Paris. Switching up my habits?, I thought. But then I realised: giving the opportunity to women, bold, trans, queer, and/or of colour, to speak, in front of a mostly female audience, in an alternative and queer-friendly venue, on all things womanhood, societal expectations, feminism, and global events affecting women   – this, in all its much necessary intersectionality, was as political as it could get. 

I will never, ever, stop seeing 8 March as an opportunity to be loud and to be heard, to advocate for change, for more rights and more representation, even more on this day than I do the rest of the year. But sitting there in the audience, I saw myself back in a classroom, smiling at the heart-warming feeling of sorority.

Written by Eloïse Batanero.
Eloïse is a French graduate in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Histories. Passionate about cultural pieces and the musical industry but also driven by the need for social change, she will tell you all about new, upcoming artists who aren’t cis-het, white men.

Illustrated by Tímea Terenyei.
Tímea is an artist, illustrator, and educator, born in Budapest and currently studying Education in Arts at the Academy of fine Arts Vienna. Check out her work on her website and Instagram (@timea_terenyei).