Why We Must Resist Sexist And Patriarchal Traditions This Leap Day

As we know from Instagram, this is the year of #2020vision and progress. But what about the year of interrogating systemic oppression via sexist traditions?

2020 is a Leap Year, meaning we have an extra day to bring forth our plans for success and world domination. According to astronomy, the purpose of observing the Leap Day (February 29th) is to align the Gregorian calendar with the actual orbit of the Earth around the sun. Basically, the Leap Year brings balance.

So, it’s both ironic and infuriatingly comical that this day has come to symbolise gender inequality and in fact reproduces imbalance through its archaic tradition known as bachelor’s day.

Historically, on this day women were permitted to extend marriage proposals to men. Its name and specificities varied internationally. From England where women could propose on this day, practice that otherwise was not recognised by law, to the US where women invited men to dance, to Germany where girls left birch trees on the doorstep of their love interests. The tradition spanned wide, and while historians lack consensus over its origins, one thing is clear- that is the way in which such traditions have worked to reproduce toxic gender norms.

Leap Day resigns women to a role of subordinance and submission for the other 1460 days around the 29th of February and make it unnormal or unmanly for a man to be proposed to.

As if we needed more reason to oppose the tradition, it functions on the ancient heteronormative assumptions that all women desire men (lol) and all women desire marriage (another lol). I would hope that we can all see (with this #2020vision in mind) that a tradition granting women legal agency in their relationships just once every four years is abhorrently sexist.

So today I ask you all to not only discontinue the tradition but to actively invert the meaning of Leap Days. And by that I mean really redefine it away from its patriarchal roots which confine women to passivity not pursuance.

Here are four simple ways to mark your Leap Day in 2020:

1) Educate yourself and make it intersectional 

Make a conscious effort to read books and articles, watch videos and have conversations with feminists and contributors to feminist theory like Judith Butler. But bear in mind that this is futile if your sources obliterate the voices of those who aren’t white, cis and heterosexual. Read nuanced works, radical theory, black feminists like Audrey Lorde, and work of disabled feminists. Before and after some self-educating, reflect on the following questions: Are you a feminist, why or why not? Is bachelor’s day harmless? What do you do, if anything, to protect women, femmes and non-binary humans? What does your image of a ‘good’ society look like regarding gender? How do you know what gender you are? This is an important question asked by Ericka Hart. Have you ever felt that you didn’t meet the social expectations associated with your gender? What could you do in your daily life to work towards creating your idea of a ‘good’ society? Revisit these questions throughout the Leap Year and note the changes.

2) Support businesses

If you have the financial means, support women’s organisations and entrepreneurial ventures. This is important because they are likely the businesses that rely on your consumption the most. Ditch high-street brands this Leap Year and buy the handmade toiletries, fashion items and jewellery from women/femme owned businesses. But consume responsibly and when you cannot extend your support financially, share their services, follow and promote their talents and crafts on social media perhaps.

3) Do political work

Donate unwanted goods to women’s charities. Put aside a couple of hours on February 29th to phoning or emailing to find out how you can support political groups and charities this Leap Year and beyond. And with International Women’s Month approaching in March, make a volunteering itinerary, research women’s demonstrations that are accessible to you and support the action.

4) Uplift women

As a matter of fact, uplift everyone, but really try this Leap Day to show gratitude and appreciation of women and femmes. If you have the proximity to a person to compliment them and it be well-received, do it. Also, acknowledge when women in your office work well, go for lunch with one who you haven’t yet, ask a woman how she is, and listen to her response.

Leap Day marriage traditions are not harmless but in fact harmful to the progression of society entirely. We have seen how patriarchy rears its ugly head in non-matrimonial areas of life – for example through unequal pay at work, and the policing of reproductive healthcare, which is mostly transphobic. Let’s redefine this as a day of education, empowerment and action and resist the political structures that ever allowed bachelor’s day to exist.

Written by Sabrina Maria 

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