Perhaps you heard that yesterday was International Women's Day. Actually, who am I kidding, of course you heard, because every public figure, corporate entity, and publication found some roundabout way to jam it down your throat in their quest to appear woke. And that's fine, I guess, because awareness is awareness. But what really matters is how these people and entities treat women today, and every day after that. Because while a day of acknowledgement for the daily struggles women around the world face, which include everything from unequal pay and sexual harassment to rape and genital mutilation, is certainly appreciated, what women and other marginalized groups really want is equality. Unfortunately, that's not quite as easily achieved with a viral marketing stunt.
Take McDonald's for example. Their act of turning the golden M into a W (get it, for women?) outside a location in Los Angeles was one of the most highly reported, but not only was it eye roll-inducing in its lameness (only one location? Really?), it's also pretty hypocritical. Not only does McDonald's not pay their workers—many of whom are women—a living wage, but they've also been the subject of numerous discrimination lawsuits, including this one, which was filed in 2017 by a trans employee who alleges that she was verbally harassed and told to use a separate bathroom that doubled as a storage closet. Not to be outdone, competitor KFC took the opportunity to introduce the world to Colonel Sanders’ wife, Claudia Sanders. Which, I dunno, I'm no feminist theorist here or anything, but isn't trotting out a corporate mascot that's famous solely for being the wife of another, more famous corporate mascot a little...regressive?
If companies wanted to do something feminist, they could start by paying women and men equally. In the U.S., as of 2017, women are paid 20 percent less than men, and for women of color, it's even worse. They could commit to offering comprehensive maternity and paternity leave plans, which at many companies are woefully lacking. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 12% of Americans have access to the paid parental leave. They could also crack down on sexual harassment and assault in the workplace by putting plans for prevention in place and actually enforcing them when they are broken. And by enforce, I don't mean punish the person reporting the assault.
To be fair, there are certainly companies and individuals who used yesterday as a motivator to speak out about issues that affect women, or to donate to organizations that are doing something to create positive change. It's just unfortunate that we need a themed day or a social media campaign or disturbing allegations against famous people to summon the motivation to collectively stand up and care about issues that affect half of everyone on the planet.
Some people (read: male internet trolls) also took yesterday as an opportunity to loudly complain that we don't have an International Men's Day. Well guess what, dudes, apparently we do. It's November 19. But more to the point, the reason nobody pays attention to it is because every day is men's day. Especially if you happen to be a straight, cisgender, white man. We must go beyond the hollow gesture of a made-up holiday. We must fight for women and caring about the issues that affect them. We can't keep settling inverted golden arches.