As you may or may not know, today is International Women’s Day (IWD) – it falls annually on March the 8th. This anniversary is not especially remarked upon in the Western world, yet it is a widely noted event in many of the countries that were closely allied to, had ideologically similar political ideologies to, or constituted the Soviet Union. I am living in China at the moment, and was first reminded of the advent of this year’s IWD by my Vietnamese girlfriend, and then by the Chinese state press. Otherwise, it would have passed me by completely.
I have to say I find it a little amusing that two countries I have spent a fair bit of time in of late – Vietnam and China – so noisily celebrate IWD, considering that women in both countries face considerable and ingrained discrimination, despite the official socialist repudiation of gender inequality. Still, the show must go on and my girlfriend came home from work on the 8th with a gift; the same one that all the women in her company (a large Chinese software firm) received to commemorate IWD. And what was her present? A gift pack of anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner. A lot of women work at this company, so obtaining all that haircare product would have been a substantial purchase. There must have been a conversation in the HR department a few weeks ago that went something like: “I think this Head & Shoulders pack is suitable. I mean, we’re all for equal rights for women, but can we at least ensure that they are not leaving bits of their scalp about the place if they must work with us? Yes, I know, it’s a shame that the deal on the girdles fell through, but there’s always next year…”