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{Published March 10, 2010, in the Colorado Springs Gazette, under the title “We Should Make Women’s Day an Occasion of Substance”}

Last Monday was [[International Women’s Day]], always an underwhelming event in America. This time last year, I was living in Europe. The holiday is completely different overseas. I realized this week how much I miss it.

In America and many other countries around the world, International Women’s Day is largely political. Which means it’s largely boring. No wonder nobody cares much about it here. What kind of a holiday can you build around politics, one of humanity’s greatest sources of folly?

It’s not like I’m a stranger to politics. Far from it. But there comes a point when the politicizing of a subject turns it dull and tiresome.

I was reminded of this last Sunday. One of The Gazette’s comics made a point of mentioning International Women’s Day, reminding us that “Women aren’t just eye candy, they’re smart!”

Yes, I know. I have a daughter in college, and I’ve worked very hard to instill that message in her. But in my Sunday funnies? I find ceaseless conversations that obsess over how women are judged by their appearance and how gender politics are more important than anything else to be not only wrong but utterly depressing. Can’t I at least get some relief from it in my morning funnies?

My daughter also models in a college fashion show every year. Is she letting the sisterhood down? Or just doing something she likes? On International Women’s Day, can’t we get past our obsession with gender politics just for a little while?

In Europe, the answer is yes. Over there, the holiday has evolved into something very different, something that as a man, I truly appreciate. It’s a holiday that honors women for their femininity. It celebrates the difference of women from men. Speaking as a man, I say it’s about darn time.

Sadly, in America we’re now at the point where this is a taboo subject.

Entire university departments can claim with a straight face that gender differences are socially constructed. For men to hold doors open for women is considered at best dated and at worst insulting. And heaven forbid you should compliment a woman on her appearance, which for a variety of biologically deep reasons comes very naturally to men.

The relations between the sexes in America are now at the point where any such behavior risks being interpreted as wanting to treat women as second-class citizens, mere objects of desire, and who knows what else. So when I’m on American soil, I tread very carefully.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Across the ocean, on International Women’s Day, it’s not only appropriate but encouraged to celebrate the beauty, grace, and yes the distinctive femininity of women. Gifts of chocolate, roses, and flowers are perfectly appropriate, as are compliments in the spirit of the day. And not, I might add, simply for wives and girlfriends.

A visitor from overseas can wish his bus conductor, housekeeper, aerobics instructor, and indeed his entire aerobics class a happy Women’s Day. When he does so, it is absolutely clear what he means, and it is not “good luck in the political struggle of the sisterhood.” The response he gets is not a hostile glare or a slap in the face, but a blushing smile and a thank you. I, for one, think that’s great.

I understand that focusing on differences between groups can lead to injustice. I get it that life in the 1950’s was hardly a paradise for women. It’s blindingly obvious to me that the women’s movement accomplished a great deal. And just because I defend evolution publicly doesn’t mean that I think all evolved behaviors are morally right. Sometimes we need to fight the very human nature we’ve inherited from our evolutionary past.

That said, I think the politicizing of gender relations in America is a loss for Americans of both sexes. Gender differences are real and, ultimately, a source of deep personal satisfaction for both men and women.

Can’t we, for one day at least, acknowledge some of the nobler but distinctively masculine feelings that you ladies inspire in us men, in a way that we find satisfying to express and that you find empowering?

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day. What a perfect occasion to find out.