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A man’s view of International (half the world) Women’s Day

Dancers on a break, New York City

Today is International Women’s Day, a day meant to focus on, well, half of the world’s population.

At the risk of sounding flip, I can’t help thinking of why we shouldn’t then just have International People’s Day — Humanosphere Day! … to celebrate and ruminate on the needs of people — or, worse, International Men’s Day, to celebrate and ruminate on the fact that men are perhaps not as bad as they used to be (possibly).

Don’t get me wrong. I think women’s issues, especially women and girls’ empowerment in politics, commerce and society in general, are critical to our entire planet’s progress. But I wonder sometimes if all these urgent calls to help women and girls doesn’t sound a bit, well, paternalistic.

Like this story about using cupcakes to mark International Women’s Day. Writer Claire Menand, clearly irritated, asks:

Since when did cupcakes become the international symbol of womankind?

One blogger, from GirlsReport Blog, says the focus on ‘women’ actually sometimes obscures the more important issue of gender disparity and discrimination:

International women’s day should be a platform for solidarity. Instead, it has become a platform of exclusion.

I could go on. There are lots of women out there like me (no, I don’t mean to claim I’m a woman) who for a variety of reasons seem to be somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of International Women’s Day. As a man, I am not sufficiently in touch with myself to fully understand why but clearly I am not alone.

That said, here are some good articles about the day:

The Guardian International Women’s Day in cartoons

BBC Which jobs have more women than men?

Daily Beast 150 women who shake the world

TrustLaw For women, the paradox of economic growth and systemic causes of poverty

Oxfam’s Duncan Green What to celebrate and what to condemn

Gates Foundation blog Invest in women to feed the world

And here’s a good list of the top 20 women in development to follow on Twitter.

Women in Colombia


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.