March 8 and November 19

I think it was back in the second grade when our social studies teacher went around asking what we thought the March 8 was about. I remember a lot of students answering the teacher saying that it was a day where girls could do as they pleased. Like it was our birthday or something. We played a lot of Abarosh in second grade so I distinctly remember the girls not having to go to “eser bet” when we played tag on this day.
I don’t remember the teacher ever correcting us about the day.

The other day, I was in a taxi and I was explaining to the driver where to go and I mentioned the women’s square around Abware as I was giving him directions. It’s a fairly recently named place so he didn’t know where it was but he laughed and asked me if that meant that every other square belonged to men. I’ll admit it’s a funny joke. But it also means that a lot of people find it unnecessary to name things in such ways like International Women’s Day, Feminism, Black History Month, Ethiopian Women Memorial Square…..
This is either because they see it as redundant or as being unfair to men but either way, I think these people miss the point.

I tried to wiki International Women’s Day this morning and it says that this day stands to “commemorate the movement for women’s rights.” It was first held in New York in 1909 and was suggested to promote equal rights as women weren’t granted equal rights to participate in voting and getting proper representation. From then it has grown to stand against violence towards women, equal opportunities in education and work and now the theme for 2018 is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

Lord knows I have my fair share of disagreement with self-proclaimed feminists and otherwise. Also, I’m not sure who to blame for the circulation of self-victimization that I and many others now have. The day before yesterday I was walking to down bole road and these two guys, super high on khat (quat?), were having a “conversation” and just as I passed by them, they got really loud. It was a total coincidence, but I found myself preparing to defend myself and get pissed by “cat calling” and “unwanted attention.” But then I realized that their thing had absolutely nothing to do with me. And this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen. I’ve been a part of and seen things were we, women, have found ways to make things that aren’t about us into a problem for everyone and I am not belittling the fact that there are real problems. I’m saying that there are enough of those out there without the ones we make for ourselves.

The internet is like quicksand so while I was reading about March 8, I came across November 19. That’s International Men’s Day. I showed it to my colleagues, made jokes and laughed at them for getting excited about the fact that there is an International Men’s Day. For ten minutes I laughed feeling like it was a joke and absolutely refusing to let the men’s day make its point. It only kept for 10 minute though because they might have started this day because some 80 years before that, women had decided that “everything had to be about us.” But then I realized that I was doing what the that taxi driver had done and completely missed the point.

One website for men’s day says right in the landing page,
“Objectives of International Men’s Day include a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.”

Just like IWD, IMD also has real themes and the theme for 2018 is “Positive Male Role Models”

The theme for 2016 was “Stop Male Suicides”. Now I started to think, maybe this is a legitimate thing that needs to happen because I’ve read the statistics that violence against women is higher than in men. But also, male suicide rates are higher than women suicides.

These things are not here to create a divide but rather to commemorate that which needs to be commemorated and to remember that there are problems that need to be solved. We should not create problems where there are none. I believe understanding and empathy are really important albeit difficult to do.

If I forget to write a remember November 19, I apologize to my brothers in advance but today is March 8 and I’ve remembered. I’ve remembered to think of fallen women fighting for their rights, I’ve remembered to not feel like a victim all the time just because the statistics say I am and create problems for myself, and I’ve also remembered my vow to women from last year. A vow I made because I’ve seen how a lot of bad things happen to girls and women because there is no one to listen and help. And so with reason, if you need someone to listen to you and help you, I am willing to do all that I can.

Happy International Women’s Day