Joumana Haddad

International (wo)men's day

india mango

"What would men be without women? Scarce, sir...mighty scarce" -Mark Twain


The mere fact that there is an international women's day is a confession of guilt, if you think about it. It's like: “We know many of us treat many of you like shit. We know we are not doing enough to stop the violence, the hate, the oppression, the injustice, and the inequalities that you suffer from. So we decided to dedicate a whole day to celebrate you.” Women of the world, rejoice. Your oppressors will pretend that you matter to them today. Yippee!

Not only is such a day an acknowledgment of culpability, but it is also quite condescending. I won’t act radical and say ‘offensive’, but basically it is about fighting discrimination with positive discrimination rather than with equal treatment: the full vicious circle. Being a female is apparently a disability and we need crutches in order to walk. It is no different than the fact that there are women writers’ anthologies out there but not men's; that there are art exhibitions dedicated to women artists but none dedicated to men (as such); that there are quota systems for women but not for men. A little pat on our fragile feminine shoulders, since, you know, we constantly need to be encouraged, protected, helped, cheered, and all that patronizing crap.

So it's our day, and we must celebrate it whether we like it or not. Politicians (male) all over the world will insert a few lines about a woman’s ‘worth’ in their speeches. The TV and advertising industries (sexist) will dedicate valuable airtime and billboards to sing our praises. Religious leaders (patriarchal) will preach the flocks about the importance of honoring the obedient rib. And there you go, consciences are clear and everybody can sleep better at night.

But wait a minute: what are we celebrating exactly?


Is it the fact that one in three women worldwide is regularly beaten, raped, or sexually assaulted (according to the UN’s statistics on violence against women)?
Is it the fact that up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under sixteen?

Is it the fact that the first sexual experience of thirty percent of women is forced?

Is it the fact that 140 million girls and women in the world are affected by female genital mutilation?

Is it the fact that over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, forced to marry and have sex with older men they do not desire?

Is it the fact that 4 million women and girls are trafficked annually?


Is it the fact that 60 percent of trafficked women experience physical and/or sexual violence before being trafficked?


Is it the fact that many domestic female workers are abused emotionally, physically or sexually, and have no legal protection – a contemporary form of slavery?


Is it the fact that an estimated 1 million women and girls enter the sex trade each year?

Is it the fact that one in two women worldwide experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work?

Is it the fact that honor killings take the lives of 20,000 women every year?

Is it the fact that most Arab women (including the Lebanese) are still treated like lesser citizens?


Is it the fact that there are still gender gaps in employment and discrepancies in salaries even in the most advanced countries, and that women are paid less than men for the same job and the same qualifications?

Is it the fact that the world of politics is still mainly ruled by testosterone?

Is it the fact that women are still viewed in many cultures as existing only for the purpose of reproduction, and that they have no basic control over what happens to their own bodies (contraception, abortion, family planning, etc.)?


Is it the fact that many women believe domestic violence is justified in certain circumstances, and that they consciously or unconsciously adopt a behavior and discourse that reinforce patriarchal systems?


Is it the fact that girls’ education is a privilege not a priority in many cultures, and that it is mostly girls who suffer from educational disadvantage?


Is it the fact that social and legal discrimination against women persists around the globe, hampering development?


Is it the fact that there are still social norms and practices that drive unequal outcomes for women and girls?


Is it the fact that there is selective female abortion in some countries and cultures where there is a preference for sons?


Is it the fact that each year more than half a million women — roughly one woman every minute — die as a result of pregnancy complications and childbirth, 99% of which occur in developing countries?


Is it the fact that millions of women throughout the world live in conditions in which they are deprived of their basic human rights for no other reason than their gender?




Celebrations you say? We should be mourning, people. Congratulations are surely not in order.


And my guess is they won't be until the world starts celebrating an international men's day.


Follow Joumana Haddad on Twitter @joumana333


Joumana Haddad is author of many books, among which “I killed Scheherazade.” Her latest book, “Superman is an Arab – On God, marriage, macho men and other disastrous inventions” (Westbourne Press, London, 2012) is now available in Lebanese bookshops and on Amazon.

Mumbai women walk past a photograph of a model advertising the women's clothing store Mango. (AFP photo)

Politicians (male) all over the world will insert a few lines about a woman’s ‘worth’ in their speeches.

  • Metnman

    I have just re-read this...it is truly awful!. Why are we applauding ("great article Joumana. You hit the nail on the head") a woman who would have us believe she is fresh and original when all she does is recycle Google data?

    March 11, 2013

  • Metnman

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that when writers start compiling lists, they have run out of things to say. Either that or they are getting lazy. Which is it Joumana?

    March 11, 2013

  • Eva Khouri

    Another even more universally acknowledged truth is that he who criticizes and attacks using a silly nickname is a coward. (...)

    March 11, 2013

  • ZiadT

    Great article Joumana! You hit the nail on its head… As a man I think that “men” should celebrate women every day. We should be doing this by permanently recognizing that women’s rights are human rights. That women just like men are individuals with needs, ambitions and dreams that deserve recognition, respect and equality. It is only when cultures worldwide come to this conclusion that humanity can truly have something to celebrate.

    March 8, 2013

  • Melissa Sahyoun

    I love it! So true .. Amazing article .. To all women, celebrate! It's your only day because ' their day' is just every day (including this day)

    March 8, 2013