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International Women’s Day

March 8, 2012

Today is a fabulous holiday that, sadly, is little-recognized in the United States – International Women’s Day. It is, however, recognized, and celebrated, in Ukraine.

Unlike Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day does not just celebrate women with children – it is to recognize ALL women, in all of our fabulousness.

"Floral" arrangement some students gave to me

Most people do not know that IWD has been around for a long time – since the early 1900’s. In the United States, the first National Women’s Day was celebrated on February 28, 1909. Perhaps the holiday did not gain the popularity of Mother’s Day because it was first suggested by the Socialist Party of the U.S.

What I like about IWD is what I said earlier – it celebrates ALL women, and it is global. As an adult woman, I always felt left out on Mother’s Day – although I am not a mother, I am an aunt, and a volunteer/active in my community, and thus have also impacted childrens’ lives. However, I did not realize there was a day to recognize a woman for being a woman – all of the focus in the U.S. is on mothers, which is sad, in my opinion. We put so much emphasis on a woman’s identity as a mother that sometimes it is easy to forget that before, during, and after women have children, they have their own identities as women.

I think today is a good opportunity for we to look at ourselves as women, to look at the status in which we are held around the world, and to think about making our voices heard to change that. In the United States, women are undergoing unprecedented attacks – on our reproductive choice, on our health choices, and in other ways. The silence of the younger generation, who do not remember the fight that women had, who do not know what their mothers and grandmothers went through to gain “equal” status, scares me. Today’s younger generation had no firsthand knowledge of the struggles women went through to gain all of the rights we have (but are losing) now, so there is this sort of taking things for granted.  As the International Women’s Day website says, “Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.”

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all bad – but in my time on this planet I have witnessed what my mother went through at work (sexual harassment), Roe v. Wade giving women power over their own reproductive choice, women finally making it to a few boardrooms and into a few political positions, and women increasing their wealth and education. However, from thousands of miles away from the U.S., I have witnessed us and our rights coming under an increased attack, which scares me.  I wonder what it will be like when I return, and whether women, old and young alike, will make their voices heard, or whether we will let ourselves be dragged back to the 18th century (or even 19th and early 20th).

Okay, I will climb back down from the pulpit and get back to things here in Ukraine.

I did not think I would see any celebration this year. Last year, I was invited to the Women’s Day celebration at the university, and we also had one at the library – two celebrations. It was a good day. This year I heard nothing of celebrations – the government declared today an official holiday and most people are taking today and tomorrow off work or school. I asked about celebrations and was told there would be none because of the holiday, so I was a little disappointed.

At the university with the "bouquet" some students gave me.

Therefore, it was a happy surprise when I arrived at the university yesterday to give my guest lecture and was greeted by some students, who had been waiting for me to arrive, to give me a “floral” arrangement as a gift for Women’s Day, and in appreciation of my guest lectures. They said they had learned a lot from me, which MEANT a lot to me, because honestly, I never really know if people are even listening.

Then I found out that they had decided to have a celebration anyway, which was good and bad news – good news because it meant I WOULD be celebrating the holiday after all, but bad because my fabulous guest lecture on body language was cut to about 40 minutes – we were on a roll when I was told to end it. And the students were really engaged, too!

On today, March 8, let’s celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past and present that is observed around the world. Let us celebrate who we are – strong, intelligent, independent, caring (and oh so many other adjectives) women who have only begun to tap into our potential, both individual and collective.  Let us hope that as we move forward in time, we will move forward and demand to be viewed and treated as equals in every way (actually, we are but for one thing – who brings new life to the Earth? It is us!).

Let us celebrate who we are, and who we are becoming.

Happy Women’s Day!

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