Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I approached with the typical awkwardness of a boring white man who just doesn’t quite get it.
Arriving at the open-plan paradise that is my office workplace, I greeted the 50-something women Julie who occupies the desk next to me with. “It’s International Women’s Day… congratulations”. After a moment of silence, she thanked me cause she’s a nice lady but then a sideways glance let me know it had fallen flat and a different approach would be required next year.
Maybe I should have tried a more solidarity style like,
“It’s International Women’s Day…. I’m with you sister” while I hold a Black Panther type fist up in the air.
Or maybe a more sensitive line like,
“It’s International Women’s Day…. hey anytime you just want to talk Julie, you know my un-walled cubicle is always open.”
Or maybe I could have boosted her up with more complimentary phrasing,
“It’s International Women’s Day…. and damn Julie, you all woman.”
But I didn’t say any of that cool stuff that would have booked me an afternoon meeting with HR. Instead I went with a lame “congratulations”. However, Julie promptly changed topic by saying, “hey, I saw there’s cake left over in the lunchroom from that ‘guy in Finance’s’ leaving afternoon tea.”
Thank god for girls. Despite my obvious awkwardness around Women’s Day, Julie still felt it prudent to let me know about free cake. She knew I love scavenged one-day-old cake for breakfast and would be stoked that ‘guy from Finance’s’ farewell gig got a poor turnout – leaving free cake. And what better way to celebrate International Women’s day than with cake. Julie didn’t want any though.
So is International Women’s Day a social minefield for men, a day that requires delicate care and tippy-toeing? I’m not sure. I know that most of the time whenever topics like feminism, pay imbalances and sexual objectification come up, most men just keep their mouths shut tight and try to back away slowly. I was one of those guys and I still mostly am, but since I’ve become the father of a baby girl, I’ve paused to reflect on these issues a bit more.
I don’t really know if I’m a feminist or not, it may depends on definition and I don’t think I need to label myself anyway. But if anyone tried to tell me that my little girl doesn’t deserve the same rights, pay, opportunities and future that a little boy has. That would make me feel really face punchy, really fast.
For me, I don’t think International Women’s Day has to be political, I wonder if it can just be a celebration of chicks being chicks, and chicks being awesome. A time for us dudes to stop and think; women are different to us, but they’re alright. To acknowledge they have skills we don’t that often include a superior social intelligence.
I’d like to think of Women’s Day as a time when we can tell the women in our lives ‘hey you’re a cool chick and you look out for me, and I appreciate that. Doing that with our wives, girlfriends, sisters and mums is relatively easy. But I think the real value could be doing it with the Julie that we all know. So next March 8th, I’m gonna saunter into work and be all;
“It’s International Women’s Day… and you’re a cool chick Julie and I appreciate you telling me when there is free food available and where to locate it. I appreciate you occasionally asking about my kids and letting me show you photos. I appreciate you not commenting on how long I take at the gym during lunch, and I really appreciate that you never eat those stinky-ass tuna sandwiches at your desk.”
Boom! That’s one way to celebrate International Women’s Day gents.