Rule or Drool: Dia de la Mujer

March 8th was International Women’s Day. I thought it was just a Colombian holiday until I read my friend Natalie’s blog. If you want background, she succinctly lays out the history and other things that I don’t feel like Googling and summarizing.

In Colombia, Día de la Mujer (Woman’s Day) is a big deal. It’s like a cross between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day (Mothers’ Day? I’ve been stressing over that apostrophe since my cake-writing days at DQ) in the U.S., but a seemingly more sincere message than February 14th and more inclusive than the second Sunday in May. Día de la Mujer is a day dedicated to appreciating the female sex with candy, roses, cards and well-wishes for women of all ages. I received double or triple the normal amount of treats that wind up in my pockets every day, and probably all 178 students called out, “Feliz día, teacher!” or tried it in English with, “Happy day, teacher!”

All were floored to hear that we don’t do Women’s Day in the states. Colombia is similar to other Latin American countries with which I’m familiar in that there is a huge idolization and appreciation for women, particularly mothers. That being said, the machismo influence also rules the country in many ways. Somehow the culture manages to revere women yet demean them simultaneously with high instances of domestic violence, job discrimination, pathetic reproductive rights and other faults – faults not even close to being exclusive to Colombia or Latin America. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert or exceptionally passionate women’s rights advocate (Kasey Ciolfi can take it from here), but we all know the U.S. has plenty to accomplish towards gender equality.

Back to Colombia. I love the idea of a holiday dedicated to women, I loved the gifts and salutations, I loved the way the entire country (or that seen from a sliver in Tabio and major news sources) embraced the holiday and accepted it as a fundamental day of the year. I was also turned off by some of the images. El Tiempo, a major newspaper out of Bogota, had an entire section for Día de la Mujer. The cover featured an illustration of a woman wearing a Superman costume with a bold “M” for mujer and the headline “Equidad es la meta!” or “Fairness is the goal!” Supermujer looked like a blond Lara Croft with a diesel six-pack framed by her cropped blue and red spandex. A paragraph introduced the content: a salute to the dedication, effort and work that women have contributed to improving their rights in Colombia and expanding their presence in social, economic and political domains. A quarter of the page was an ad for oral corrective surgery.

Inside, one article claimed that “Fairness is the strategy for equality,” which is a legitimate statement, but seemed to contradict the “Fairness is the goal!” headline. Equality is the goal. At present neither fairness nor equality exist. Again, this can be said for hundreds of countries, including my own dear patria (Latin origin irony noted, moving on.) However, I’m only living in one right now. The other features highlighted women in male-dominated industries, including cycling and NASA technology. The women strongly and positively represent female advancement in their respective areas.

Buried in the El Tiempo’s commentary section was a short letter to the editor from a concerned Bogotana who basically said, thanks for the flowers guys, but what about every other day? What about equal pay and opportunity? What about all the shit we deal with for being female?

Truth. Is it really a good thing to have an article about a female cyclist who surprises her male competitors by winning? Maybe she can just win and be in the sports section instead. Maybe I’m overanalyzing Día de la Mujer and coming off as a critic. It’s just, does SuperMujer have to look like a videogame heroine? Obviously she should be hot because she’s on the cover of a newspaper section, but why not a hot female scientist or engineer (or teacher)? Holding a flower from a caring, respectful man in her life?

An editor of the newspaper in question, Jineth Bedoya, received a “Woman of Courage” award on Thursday from Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton for working to combat gender violence – I’m sure she looks great in red and blue. Colombia should be lauded for making moves towards women’s rights, especially since it’s been preoccupied with a civil war and bouts of violence for many years. The special feature held odd messages, but it did exist.

I swear I’m not a cynical she-woman man-hater. I sincerely enjoyed Dia de la Mujer and all its messages.  Minuto de Dios, the Catholic corporation that heads my school and those of some other WorldTeach-ers, sent tokens to thank us for our womanly presence and work. I was slightly offended yet very much grateful for the useful gift: a pocket sewing kit and mirror.

Some of my Dia de la Mujer swag

Happy day!

(Note: there is also a Día del Hombre, or Men’s Day coming up. Maybe my seesaw social commentary will take a different route after that? Stay tuned.)