Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. Which is great and I’m glad that there are certain days, weeks, and months dedicated to recognizing different marginalized groups, including women. But I can’t help but think that there’s something really off about the fact that women are basically half of the world’s population and we get one day out of 365 days in the year, one month out of twelve.
As if the rest of the year is “regular” and for men, right?
Frankly, the more I think about it the more riled up I get. So I decided to dig into the history of it a little to educate myself. In a nutshell, IWD grew out of the Socialist movement and labor and protests for equal rights for women in the early 1900s and later became an established holiday around the world. Although in some countries, like Russia, it’s an actual national holiday that people get off from work, in many other countries, like the US, it’s still kind of fringe and many (probably most) women can’t make it to IWD demonstrations or actions because they, of course, have to work.
Which brings me to what really frustrates me about these kinds of holidays and “heritage months:” the fact that they feel so tokenizing and, honestly, insulting. Okay, so, officially, we acknowledge that there’s one day out of the year dedicated to recognizing women around the world, celebrating their achievements worldwide (I’m not even sure how one does that), and calling for gender equity.
But what does that actually get us?
I suppose the real crux of it is this, if I may be so bold: what women need – especially women of color, especially Native and indigenous women, especially immigrant women, especially poor and working poor women – is not just a holiday or a history month, but actual, tangible, concrete change. In the form of equal pay. In the form of equal representation in positions of power. In the form of freedom from harassment and discrimination. In the form of equal access to opportunities to pursue the work and create the lives that they want.
In other words, more money, more power, more autonomy, and more respect. It’s 2019. Is that so much to ask?
Alright, if I stop ranting for a second and get practical, let’s talk about some actual things that we can do to incorporate all the good things about IWD and Women’s History Month into the rest of the year. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest:
advocating for a woman to get paid more at her job (this woman can be yourself)
if you employ women, being sure to be a sponsor or a champion of them so that they can be promoted and given raises at least as often as their male counterparts
validating a woman in her opinion, lived experience, and aspirations
asking a woman what she needs, what she wants, and how you can help
getting out of a woman’s way both physically and metaphorically (listen to the podcast in the March edition of The Trajectory for more on this)
not cutting women off when they’re talking (this applies to men and other women!)
making sure women get credit for their ideas
protecting women from being stuck with all of the “low-level,” “unskilled,” and underpaid work
It’s important to note that these things can really take place on any day of the year.
Which ones do you want to integrate into your life?
Also, I thought of these ideas in under five minutes. There are many more. What ideas do you want to add?