International Women's Day: We want allies, not flowers

Women's Day once a year is not enough. We need feminist resistance every day - and men who are prepared to fight alongside us against the patriarchy.

More than 100 years of feminist struggle. A protest in Düsseldorf in March 1988.
More than 100 years of feminist struggle. A protest in Düsseldorf in March 1988.imago/Klaus Rose

Berlin-Eleven decades ago, the International Women's Day was proclaimed for the first time at the Socialist Women's Conference in Copenhagen. Proletarian women fighters like Clara Zetkin and Käte Duncker demanded women's suffrage and equal pay for equal work. 

Now, 110 years later, so-called "Women's Day" has been taken over by capitalism. Department stores outbid one other with deals on champagne and flowers. A restaurant in the Uckermark region is offering Women's Day menus in thermo boxes so that the master of the house only has to light the candle in the evening. Valuable time should not be wasted at the cooker: Even 8 March does little to improve the statistics on men's low amount of care work.

But we don't need flowers. No champagne either. And it's too late for candlelit dinners. We need allies who will fight alongside us. It's urgent. Over the past year, the patriarchy has found its stride again. The Covid-19 crisis has reinforced existing inequalities.

We don't need politicians announcing the next bogus reform to appease tempers.

The majority of women work in care and education jobs - underpaid and directly on the frontlines. On average, they do almost 1.5 hours more unpaid care work per day. Particularly alarming: the greatest gap is among people in their mid-30s, where women toil for five hours and 18 minutes daily, more than twice as long as their male partners. Care work - unlike wage labour - is socially devalued, which is another reason why what are apparently women's jobs remain poorly paid. Why pay good wages for what is free at home?

Where are the male allies?

What we need today are neither celebratory speeches nor congratulatory cards. We don't need politicians announcing the next bogus reform to appease tempers. Because the 111th Women's Day is little more than an information event for the uninterested, an annual event to report on the current situation of women, to cite statistics that rarely improve. In this newspaper, too, a few pages have been freed up to mark the occasion.

But what we need is feminist struggle and resistance on all other days as well. And the realisation that it is not about women, but about finally smashing patriarchal structures. It's nice that on this day named after us, men forget their privileged positions for a moment and clear the stage for us. That we speak at demos or write great texts, that we raise our voices and are also sometimes elevated. But it is too short-sighted if this only happens on 8 March.

We need men and allies who will fight this fight with us on all other days as well. Who not only patronise us today, but also stand in solidarity with us at the next work meeting. Studies regularly show that in professional settings, women are more likely to be interrupted, less likely to get a word in edgewise, and their ideas are hardly heard if a colleague doesn't pick up on them. Speaking time has become a status symbol. How much we are allowed to speak shows how much power we have. So where are the men who put aside their inherited privileges on all other days, who let us talk and not let us fight alone all the time?

The patriarchy works non-stop

We need men who acknowledge that patriarchy makes it easier for them and women have to fight harder. Who recognise that - despite all the achievements of the past century - there is still no equality. Who are aware of the current relations of domination and see that these very relations degrade women (and non-binary persons), deprive them of opportunities and possibilities. Who understand that feminist struggle is not a "women's issue".

We need men to see that while women today are more emancipated than ever before, they keep facing the same hurdles, keep making the same choices. Yes, many of these choices seem to be made voluntarily. But when deviant behaviour is outlawed, freedom of choice cannot be all that great in a patriarchy.

It's good and important to use a symbolic day to draw attention to the ongoing, tough struggle for equality. It's dangerous if it's misused as a fig leaf to point out oppressive, patriarchal structures just once a year as a matter of routine. Since the patriarchy works non-stop, the joint feminist struggle should too!