So it’s International Women’s Day again and this year many women will be striking, protesting (silently or not), wearing red, donating to organizations and charities and standing up for their sisters around the world. At the same time, many women will have no idea that this day exists. For the origins of the day itself, this website has a great timeline and explanation. There is no right way to celebrate the day, everyone does it their own way (if they celebrate at all), but it’s good to remember that today was named International Women’s Day as “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” (Quote taken from here).
I come from a country where striking was considered a right, and a way to make one’s voice heard. A way to demand better pay, equal rights, better hours, etc. It wasn’t considered a privilege; most strikers go without pay to fight for their future and the future of their kids. Striking and protesting were/are often the only ways that many people, men and women, were/are able to actually make themselves heard. And also, just because one person strikes for one cause doesn’t mean that they are not invested in others. Just because I write about something that bothers me in this moment doesn’t mean that I have never been bothered about what happens to another woman in a different country. So why am I constantly reading articles trying to devalue the efforts of women in this country to make themselves heard via a strike, and comparing our issues with the issues of other women in the world? Just because I believe in equal pay in the workplace doesn’t mean I also don’t speak out about genital mutilation, or the fact that rape in India is practically considered normal. Just because I fight for our pro-choice rights here does not mean that I have never done anything to reach out and make a change in another mother’s life in the DRC or Sudan. I am not unique; most women I know are fighting for all of our collective rights, wherever we may be. We understand our privilege and try to use it in a way that we can make a real change. So for those of you telling us that we are idiots for striking, maybe take a step back and look into the history of women’s rights over the past 100 years or so. No movement has ever been perfect, and probably never will be, but at least we can make an effort to continue to make changes for all of us, one step at a time.
My partner and I aren’t well off by any shape or form and as immigrants in the US not really in any stable status either right now. This didn’t stop us from striking back in February for a Day Without Immigrants, and it will not stop me from participating in the Day Without a Woman movement that takes place today. This will also not stop me from also contributing towards making my voice heard on many different issues that continue to bother me worldwide. At the same time it also won’t stop me from preparing meals for everyone, reading to my kids and making sure the laundry is done. Funnily enough I am also able to multitask quite well, even when I’m on strike. Striking may be my privilege, but it’s also my way of proving a point. And if you can’t strike, then no one is going to look at you any differently, because no one is asking you to do something that you may not be able to, or may not feel comfortable doing. That’s fine. We are luckily able to make that choice still.
There are so many ways that we can help our sisters, in our own countries and across the world. Start at home by volunteering at a women’s shelter, picking up the phones at a domestic violence helpline, calling out discrimination and teaching our kids that we are all equal no matter how different we are. Choose a charity at home or abroad that is close to your heart and help out (not everything requires money either). Read up on the plight of women across the world, share information and educate others. And instead of bashing other women for their choices in online forums, practice being supportive and using empathy instead of fear as a way to try to understand. Our future generations are looking at us to provide a path towards a brighter future, so let’s do that.
I am very blessed to come from a very long line of strong, capable women who managed to confront adversity time and time again and still make it through. We may be slightly insane and eccentric, but this heritage is a huge source of inspiration for me. These women fought for me to be able to be whatever I want to be, and I will continue to fight for my children to be whoever they want to be. Family has taught me that we don’t have to be perfect to become an inspiration or an example, but we do need to always fight for what is right. Fighting isn’t easy; neither is looking out into this huge world and trying to understand someone else’s plight. But it’s so important to step outside of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves constantly. I am also very blessed to have come across and personally know many inspirational women in my life, women who were able to step out of their comfort zones to make someone else’s life better, women who left their lives to start another in a better place, women who survived and moved forward despite everything they had been through. Women who were victims but who survived and became role models, helping others.
We shouldn’t need to strike or protest for our rights, but we still need to. And sadly, many of the people who don’t believe this is necessary are other women. Now THAT is what I call privilege. Because if you think that we have nothing to fight for then your world must be a very small one.
A few (out of many) of the current inspirational women that continue to make me want to always push further: Theresa Vandermeer and Work + Shelter, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her wonderful way with words, never one to be afraid of speaking out, my mother Alison Toon and her ability to create continuously, Charlie Romijn for being a driving force and talent while still dealing with people asking her when she’s going to stop with the “music thing” and settle down and have kids, Stephanie Kuehnert for continuing to push boundaries, Jenny Raymond for being amazing and for creating Mamazou, and Ally at Life With My Little Duck who always has time for everyone she loves.