By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni
On March 8, International Women’s Day, women across the world are invited to join the UN to celebrate 2023 International Women’s Year. The invitation is for women, and not transgenders, cross genders, or men who have biologically, psychologically, psychopathically or worse frivolously converted to being women.
While we welcome male and every gender’s or non-gender’s participation in celebrating women, and will always do so, we take issue with unfair appropriation of ‘our’ day by a third party or gender.
Canada’s Hershey Company therefore is shameful for misguidedly or mischievously inserting into a day of celebration specifically of woman, a transgender as the face of its campaign. Doing so indicates once again male callousness and refusal to recognize woman as an identity independent of male – even one that is vaguely male.
There is a rising vicious attempt to obfuscate gender biology and to make gender amenable to transformation, supplementation, and supplantation. This is our one day in the year, and anything male – even if it is someone who was once upon a time male and has now turned female, which or who is used to substitute us women or to lead an international tribute to our gender is grossly unfair and obscene.
Corporate greed to hawk their wares thrives on controversy which generates free publicity. The limited edition “Hershey’s bar of tribute to women” will surely exceed all sales expectations, which is likely the motive behind this mal-tribute to women.
In the ad which appeared on Wednesday March 1, as part of Hershey Canada’s cleverly worded “Her for She” campaign in honor of International Women’s Day, a transwoman Fae Johnstone – whom the ad cites as a “2SLGBTQUIA+ Advocate” – is seen promoting Hershey’s new female-themed wrapper.
After introducing herself as the executive director of ‘Wisdom to Action’, Johnstone explains the inclusivity initiative – “We can create a world where everyone is able to live in public space as their honest and authentic selves.” As a woman’s identity and the authenticity of her gender were never in doubt, bringing in ulterior goals to her celebration and betterment seems entirely ill-placed.
The ad reportedly ends with Johnstone joyfully posing alongside several biological women, while the voiceover concludes with an invitation for viewers to view Hershey Canada’s campaign on its website. In a final slap to womanhood and to women’s ability to think autonomously, Johnstone beckons viewers to, “See the women changing how we see the future at Hershey’s Canada.”
So, the woman’s future globally evidently is now placed in the hands of a business-hungry confectionary company. What women are expected to see is not the future they want to envisage but how this arrogant unthinking company – Hershey – envisages and commands it.
The hurtful message underlying this appropriation of a woman’s entity on a day exclusively assigned to her is that male dominance over female continues.
As a feminist and one nearing the end of average female life expectancy, I can only feel helpless rage at the decline and fall of the female’s exclusive right to March 8th, and mourn the erosion of our singular claim to this uniquely woman’s day along with the recognition it is intended to bring us. It is heartening, though, to see the hammering of Hershey’s campaign on social media by like minded viewers, male, female or other.
Social media users (more likely than not of rightist persuasion) have excoriated Hershey for its blindsiding of women. The last word on the Hershey intrusion into female turf comes from Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton when he declares, “@Hershey embraces misogyny.”
The theme of this year’s celebration of women as announced by the UN – ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’, at first glance, is heartening. Like all sectors of work and life, women have remained the ‘Second Sex’ in the digital world as well, with men hogging the field and the limelight.
Almost 50% of the world’s women are offline, and globally just 22 percent of artificial intelligence workers are women. Worse, global analysis of 133 AI systems across industries finds that 44.2 per cent demonstrate gender bias. Expectedly, women suffer more than men from digital abuse. A survey cited by the UN of women journalists from 125 countries notes that 73 per cent had suffered online violence in the course of their work.
Gender intimidation and harassment are easier done in the digital world than in the real world. Social media thrives on mutual denigration and destruction. And the female body and intellect make easy targets for angered frustrated males and non-denominational/indeterminate others. The UN recognizes the social media’s potential for aggravating gender violence. Its pervasive threat coupled with a lack of legal recourse, as UN rightly notes, too often forces women out of the digital spaces they do occupy, further adding to the exclusion or underrepresentation which they already experience.
A persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential. Beginning with computing’s earliest days to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, UN notes, women have made untold contributions to the digital world but their accomplishments have occurred against all odds. Underrepresentation in STEM education and careers remains a major barrier to their participation in tech design and governance. This March 8th accordingly, the UN is calling on governments, activists and the private sector alike “to power on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive and more equitable”.
Alas, the UN too is unable to stay entirely on course with keeping women the sole focus of this day and year. Like the Hershey campaign, the UN campaign piles on non-essentials to the goal of women’s progress. “Facing a multiplicity of global crises,” it asserts, “We have a chance to create a better future—not just for women and girls, but for all humanity and all life on Earth”. The underlying message to women is disheartening in that women’s equal digital participation alone is insufficient. It must include all humanity (in line with the Biden administration’s obsession with equity), and it must encompass life on earth (in line with the Biden led global agenda on environment).
This stretched IWY goal clearly undercuts women’s singularity and betterment as a cause by itself. Like women throughout history, women today too, must bear the triple burden of ensuring her own and her family’s betterment but also that of humanity and the planet.
Male domination and malevolence shine through even on a Day meant to be dedicated to women and their wellbeing alone!
Neera Kuckreja Sohoni is a published author based in California. A Ph.D. in Economics from Pune University, she was an affiliated research scholar at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times