The British do not do seven day mourning the way many Venezuelans are for Hugo Chavez, neither – as a rule – do we flock to the roads to see the bodies of our politicians being driven through the streets. With the exception of Jeremy Bentham we do not – mercifully – put our departed on display. We tend to leave that to communists.
Just as Chavez’s death reminds us that we like to keep our grief low-key, it is fair to say that we are incredibly bad at most public events, with people grumbling, criticising, and proudly declaring that they are going away on holiday just to avoid the thing. We are useless at celebrating St George’s day, and have never fully converted to Halloween. There is too much whingeing about Valentine’s, and really only April Fool’s day gets widespread support because that is a day purposefully designed just for insincerity, of which we cannot get enough.
Much as we don’t like to parade our emotions publicly, so we reject the forced campaigning of a special day. The British rail against any feeling of social pressure to conform to the requirements of a big emotion or idea. Whilst each of us has their weaknesses when it comes to celebrating things, we are uncommonly bad at passing any opportunity to take a swipe at anything with which we disagree.
Today is International Women’s Day, the sort of slightly-naff, forced concept which makes our sensibility for the low-key approach to life shudder. It is inherently weird that we should only celebrate women on one out of the 365 days of the year, and the event is suspiciously well organised.
I can’t help thinking that many of the most vocal supporters of International Women’s Day are not a fan of many other national days, or national occasions: how many in support of it had a go at the Jubilee, the Olympics, or even the Royal wedding? As I said, we are exceptionally good at giving anything we don’t care for a good kicking.
Women are underrepresented in parliament, underpaid in work, and under-appointed in boardrooms. Women are trafficked, raped in war, abandoned to bring up children alone, and fighting around the world to be treated with dignity and to be accepted on equal terms. Women are told that they are too fat, too thin, or too old in too many publications. I find the idea of International Women’s day a tiny bit silly, but absolutely nowhere near as bad as stark, global inequality. Unlike other days when we are bombarded with a message, there can be no denying that the challenges faced by women are real, and that we have a long way still to go in making society an equal place. Because these international days are a bit cringe, but more importantly because there is a serious point to this one, I look forward to the day when we can scrap it.