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March 8: It is not pink, it is RED!

What is it about? Roses? No, it is about ‘Bread and Roses’.

Got it? Yes, it is about International Working Women’s Day that falls on March 8 every year since 1913 (it was March 19 then on 1911, later moved to March 8). Then, what is it all about the colour, pink or red?

One can see today’s (March 8) newspaper supplements (almost all) celebrating ‘women’s day’ with full of commercial advertisements selling products for long hair, cosmetics, gold jewels, kitchen products or household items, fitness centres, garments, innerwear, even medical checkup with discounts with a tag line praising womanhood on the occasion of International women’s day. One could sensibly notice that almost all these supplements or TV advertisements or pamphlets with special offers are in PINK.

Some of us could argue, “What’s wrong with pink? It resembles womanhood and colour identity for girls, ladies and women. It starts from birth, blue for boys and pink for girls. Be it a garment, toys, furniture, tiffin boxes or bags for school kids, it is common practice being followed everywhere.”

Wait! This is not about to debate whether to use PINK for women or NOT, but to insist NOT for March 8. It is RED for March 8. Why so?

Because, it is not a day to portray women as beauty queens or worshiping womanhood, but to remember the century old struggle of working women for the self respect, dignity, equal rights and more importantly against the exploitation  at workplaces.

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In 1908, about 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York – fighting for suffrage (voting rights), better pay (pay equivalent to men) and shorter (or less) working hours (up from 12 hours to 8 hours). In the following years, the slogan ‘Bread and Roses’ was raised by those women – ‘Bread symbolizing economic security and Roses,a better and dignified life’.  ‘Right to vote,’ which is today considered to be a very fundamental right to every citizen of a country was denied to women till the early 1900s in western countries and as late as 1980 in some Asian/Middle East countries.  The historic women’s struggle also contributed significantly to the Universal Standardization of 8 Hours of working per day. The victory of that struggle has been cherished on March 8 since hundred years. The victory was NOT due to womanhood, but due to the bravery of thousands of working women and the mass struggle.

March 8 is not just International Women’s day; it is International Working Women’s day. Removing the word ‘Working’ is nothing but neglecting the labour of women, from domestic labour like parenting and cooking, to industrial labour.

Though many feats have been achieved by working women’s struggle, there is still a long way to go for equality and liberty. The struggle continues in different forms/phases at various locations and will go on till the equality wins.

The continuing working women’s struggle is:

–       Not against the rights of working men, it is for the equal rights of working women.

–       Not for gender equality in exploitation; it is against the exploitation by corporates.

–       Not for concession or exemption from exploitation for women, it is for the complete annihilation of exploitation for all working class.

Even though March 8 reminds the short fall in the trade unions and other labour organizations dominated by patriarchy, March 8 and May 1 (Labour Day) are not contradictory to one another. Instead, both days complement each other towards the equality and annihilation of labour exploitation.

Today the pro-corporate media portrays March 8 as a celebration of womanhood and also to celebrate few women celebrities in the sports, cinema, and corporates with few exceptions of people leader(s). We should not forget that both Working Women’s Day and Labour Day celebration are not for any individual or leaders. Both days are for the united mass of workers. Thus, the untraveled road for justice and equality for women can be achieved by aligning up a big mass as a working class. Let us move towards that!

Let us reiterate again to ourselves, March 8 to be celebrated as International Working Women’s Day and its colour is RED and not pink.

— Jeyaprakash

About Jeyaprakash J

An activist and part of Ilanthamizhagam (Young Tamil Nadu) Movement, working in an automotive component manufacturing company near Chennai.

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