International Women’s Day: Dismay at Alcohol and Arms Ties
International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual event, held on March 8, 2022. It is recognized by the UN and celebrates women while raising awareness of continued gender inequality, with events held around the world. The UN’s theme for 2022 is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
Women’s health activists are concerned about the corporate capture of the IWD. Specifically via the internationalwomensday.com website. This website promises to celebrate women, provide guidance and resources to support IWD events, and provide a means to donate to female-focused charities.
The website’s hashtag #BreakTheBias targeting Women’s Day this year gained widespread popularity on social media. The hashtag was adopted by various organizations, companies, institutions, and celebrities.
The website internationalwomensday.com has no connection to the UN. It is unclear who runs this website. However, several partners are listed on the website, including DHL, Nottingham Trent University, medical technology and pharmaceutical companies, arms companies, and alcohol companies.
Arms and alcohol companies listed as partners on the website include:
- Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers.
- Lockheed Martin, a US aerospace, arms, defence, information security, and technology corporation with worldwide interests.
- Diageo, one of the world’s largest producers of alcohol.
- Beam Suntory, another major alcohol producer.
It is shocking the number of organizations and individuals who have used the #BreakTheBias on this Women’s Day without knowing who is really sponsoring the message.
Despite the website’s partners being clearly stated on the site, many people have signed up.
This is not what the UN promotes. I’m astonished at the range of organizations that have adopted this hashtag without thinking it through. The whole thing blows my mind,” said Sarah Hawkes, director of the Centre for Gender and Global Health at University College London (London, UK), as per the Lancet.
This fits into a big discourse on the role of the corporate sector in what is otherwise seen as socially progressive issues—the capture and infiltration of the narrative by the corporate sector. What we’re seeing is a sophisticated version of something that isn’t new: the corporate sector capturing ‘wokeism’ to protect its shareholder value.”Sarah Hawkes, director of the Centre for Gender and Global Health at University College London (London, UK)
Carol Emslie, at Glasgow Caledonian University (Glasgow, UK) has studied how alcohol companies are using IWD to sell their products. While dismayed by the website and the tactics of these harmful industries she was not surprised. The alcohol industry is doing what the tobacco industry did linking women’s empowerment with their products. She cites Mother’s Day as another example of the alcohol industry piggybacking on different days.
We need to take a step back and ask: what is the impact on women’s health here? Alcohol is a leading global factor for an early death for young women.”Carol Emslie, Glasgow Caledonian University (Glasgow, UK)
A request for comment from the IWD website was unanswered. Diageo and Lockheed Martin did not answer The Lancet’s specific questions. A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin was quoted conveying that participating in IWD demonstrates its commitment to accelerating women’s equality and gender parity. Northrop Grumman and Beam Suntory have not responded to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, as Hawkes says, the Lancet Commission is asking an important question as to why the public health industry is not using similar strategies to sell positive health messages.