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The strange and sexist ways India tried to celebrate International Women’s Day

India-women's day
Riding in.
  • Itika Sharma Punit
By Itika Sharma Punit

Co-editor, Quartz India

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

In recent years, celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 has become pretty mainstream in India. The day marks the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

But we are practically killing its spirit.

Retailers often use the day to offer discounts on beauty products, lingerie, salon services and home decor items. These offers reinforce stereotypes that women’s worth and desires are limited to their appearance and homes, a plainly sexist message.

It was no different this year—though there were some who did get it right.

Here’s a look at the good, the strange, and the downright ugly of International Women’s Day celebration in India this year:

The good

Workplace equality: Indian television commercials are not really known for portraying women as independent spirits.  For women’s day this year, Tata Group’s watch and accessories brand, Titan, released a commercial with the tagline, “Change the way you look at a woman’s success.” It hit all the right notes.

Flying solo: National carrier, Air India, set a record by operating the world’s longest all-women flight from Delhi to San Francisco. From the ground staff to pilots and in-flight attendants, the flight was managed by an all-women team.

The airline also operated 20 other all-women crewed flights on domestic and international routes on March 6.

The strange

Riding in: Congress lawmaker Ranjeet Ranjan arrived at the gates of Parliament in New Delhi on a rust-coloured Harley-Davidson on March 8.

Ranjan’s ride gave the security staff a nervous moment as the motorbike did not have the mandatory sticker for vehicles to enter parliament premises.

Eventually, speaker Sumitra Mahajan sanctioned entry for her motorcycle.

The  downright ugly

Moisturizing lotion: A prominent media house in the country decided to celebrate its female staff by giving them beauty products. And while gifts should make one happy, some journalists were furious.

“I work here just like the men do, and I get paid for it. Why do I deserve this sexist gift?” a senior reporter at the newspaper said in reaction to a bottle of  lotion she found at her desk early morning on March 8, requesting anonymity.

High on Heels: Old Wild West restaurant in India’s business capital Mumbai ran a “High on Heels” scheme offering discounts based on the size of heels that women wore.

“For the first time ever, your heels can give you a lot more than just foot pain,” the restaurant said in an online classifieds listing. “So here’s the deal, higher your heels higher the discount you get on your overall bill.”

If the scheme itself wasn’t off the mark, the restaurant took it another step. “All the lovely women make sure you wear your HIGHEST heels and get set to show your best moves as our DJ will be belting his best tunes,” the listing added.

Twitterati: Hundreds of Twitter users voiced their sentiments, with #InternationalWomensDay trending in the country pretty much throughout the day. From film stars and politicians, everyone congratulated women for what they do. And here are what some had to say:

And then, of course, there were tens of those who went on asking.

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