Why do I commit myself to participating in International Women’s Day?
I came into this world having been nurtured in the womb of a great woman (Pouran Safi).
Some of my earliest memories of my life are the love and care of that great woman.
Women taught me how to read.
Women taught me how to love.
And I today, am surrounded by these two powerful girls.
I can’t even conceive of my humanity without the women who have shaped my life.
My being is wrapped up in theirs.
This is why I honor International Women’s Day, today, everyday, until all of us have the structural and institutional freedom in which we can achieve our full potential, with the grace of God.
I cannot be who I ought to be, until and unless they be who they ought to be.
Here are three short thoughts on International Women’s Day:
1) WE have de-politicized International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is not about Hallmark. It’s not about chocolate. (Thought I know many women who won’t turn those down.) It’s about politics, institutions, economics, racism….
As is the case with Mother’s Day and many other holidays, today we are presented with a sanitized, deodorized, nationalized, commoditized version of what were initially radical holidays to emphasize social justice.
Initially, International Women’s Day was called International Working Women’s Day. Yes, every woman is a working woman. Yes, there is no task harder perhaps than raising a child, for a father and a mother. But let us remember that the initial impetus of this International Working Women’s Day was to address the institutional, systematic, political, and economic obstacles that women faced in society. Yes, many socialists and communists worked to use this day to highlight the urgency of equal rights for women, including the right to vote in the early 1900s. They marched against gender discrimination in employment, and for the right to hold public office.
2) We have a lot of work to do.
All you need to do is to go Google, and google “International Women’s Day.” See what you get, a whole set of images of dainty images of women. Not exactly the message of the International Women’s Day.
The work is not just in Developing Countries. Right here in the United States we see an escalating assault on women’s rights.
3) Today’s focus is about poverty, sexual violence, and more.
The United Nations highlights a number of themes. In 2013, the theme was a commitment to end violence against women.
The focus today is truly international, having moved from a European and Soviet origin to a truly global shared struggle.
Here is a list of previous themes over the last generation:
2013: A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women
2012: Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty -
2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology - 2010: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all -
2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls - 2008: Investing in Women and Girls -
2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls -
2006: Women in decision-making -
2005: Gender Equality Beyond
2005: Building a More Secure Future -
2004: Women and HIV/AIDS -
2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals -
2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities -
2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts -
2000: Women Uniting for Peace -
1999: World Free of Violence against Women -
1998: Women and Human Rights -
1997: Women at the Peace Table -
1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future -
So here is, to all women, and to all men whose humanity is wrapped up in those women. Here is to all of us.
Commitment to International Women’s Day is intertwined with struggles against sexism, racism, colonialism, homophobia, classism, able-ism, and Islamophobia. It’s not about your individual preferences and friendships. It is about the institutions, infrastructure, and systems that prevent some of us from achieving the fullness of our human potential.