A Few Thoughts on International Women’s Day

First of all, happy International Women’s Day! It’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. I’m glad that organizations throughout the world will be using this as an opportunity to speak out about equal rights. I’m thrilled that this will open up dialogues that many people wouldn’t otherwise have thought to have.

But at the same time, it frustrates me that we still need a day like this. Aren’t we women every day of the year? Don’t we deserve basic human rights all year round?

Recently I was sitting at a table with 15 other women, so I took an informal survey.

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been touched inappropriately without your permission.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been cat called.
  • Raise your hand if anyone has ever discussed your breasts, behind, or legs without your initiating that conversation.
  • Raise your hand if your opinion has been dismissed as trivial.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve heard a man singing the words “bitch” “slut” or “ho” along with the radio.
  • Raise your hand if you yourself have been called a bitch, slut, or ho.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve seen nude women calendars in public places.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been interrupted by a man who insists on explaining something to you that you already know.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been treated like an idiot by a mechanic.
  • Raise your hand if men have assumed that you’re not intelligent.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been rejected based on your weight, age, or shape.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized because of something you were wearing.
  • Raise your hand if people have assumed you need to ask a man’s permission to do something or go somewhere.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of not being feminine enough.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being too girly.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told you do something good, “for a girl.”
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to drive behind a truck with naked women mud flaps.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been paid less than a male counterpart.
  • Raise your hand if men that you’ve trained have been promoted above you.
  • Raise your hand if a man assumed you needed his protection when you didn’t.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told something was women’s work.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being emotional or hysterical.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.

Try giving this survey the next time you’re with female friends. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that in the vast majority of cases, every woman at the table raised her hand. And that’s probably the most outrageous part of all – that it comes as no surprise.

The only reason that this happens is that we are not in the exclusive group of humans who sports a penis. That simple fact makes “us” not “them”. As far as I can tell, that appendage does not endow people with superior abilities of any kind. It just means we get to be easily identified as being on the other team. And society has arbitrarily decided that our team gets to be the losing team. It’s not rational. It’s not just. And it’s not acceptable.

I for one am sick and tired of being treated to micro-aggressions every single day. Case in point, I looked at my supply of Graphicstock pictures to see which one to use for this blog entry. This, below, is their idea of a good image for Women’s Day. Because we all should be depicted as naked, sexy, thin, with long flowing hair and luscious lips, arching our backs while floating with our heads in a flowery cloud.

Happy Women’s Day, indeed.


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You Do You

It occurs to me that a lot of the conflict and scandal and overall kerfuffle in this world could be avoided if we all stuck to one basic tenet: You do you. I’ll do me. (That is, as long as what you’re doing does not negatively impact others.)

For example, I’ll never understand why people get so worked up over which bathroom people use to pee. For heaven’s sake, there are stalls. You don’t have to watch. It’s not like you’re being peed upon. So why do you care? You pee in your stall, I’ll pee in mine. We’ll both wash our hands, and go about our business. We don’t even have to make eye contact at the sink if you don’t want to. Simple.

And why do you care if people practice another religion or choose not to practice one at all? How is that even your business? Are you worried that they will go to hell? Gimme a break. No you’re not. Worry about your own final destination. A believer ought to be able to trust that the God of his or her understanding will worry about everyone else.

Is there a good reason that you don’t want the best for others? As the saying goes, equal rights isn’t like pie. It’s not as though there won’t be enough for the rest of us if others partake.

Personally, I have a hard enough time keeping my own ducks in a row without trying to deal with everyone else’s flock. So, you do you. I’ll do me. And we’ll both be just ducky.


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A Thousand Points of Feminism

In a country in which women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, in a culture where only 61 percent of absentee fathers actually pay child support, it stuns me how quiet the women’s movement has become. Feminism seems to be an epithet, a label to be avoided.

Even worse are those people who think all the battles for women’s rights have already been fought. They’re probably the same ones who think racism no longer exists. They’re definitely the same ones who take for granted the progress that has, in fact, been made, and was, in fact, hard-won.

As a woman who has worked non-traditional jobs most of her life, I can tell you that there are plenty of battles still to be fought, just as there were many past battles that no one even thinks about. Here are two from my own family of unsung heroes:

-In the 1960’s, mastectomies were a lot more radical than they are now. They were so invasive that the level of disfigurement made breast reconstruction surgery a challenge to say the least. The first silicone breast implants came out in 1962, but they were very unreliable. My mother had her mastectomy during that period, and reconstruction was not possible in her case. Her insurance covered pads to pin inside her bra, but they were unnatural  lumps of cloth that looked like modified shoulder pads on a good day.

There were pads out there that were shaped more naturally, even including pseudo-nipples, but her insurance would not cover those. She argued with them for ages, stating that a woman’s self-esteem and dignity was worth more than the savings any corporation might get by denying her that right. No one questioned the need for a realistic prosthetic after any other type of amputation, after all. Eventually she won. Every woman in the state of Connecticut who relied on those pads to feel more “normal” has her to thank.

-Back in the early ‘70’s, my oldest sister, a senior in high school, wanted to take a photography class. She was told she couldn’t because boys and girls couldn’t be trusted to be in a dark room together. She raised holy hell, and eventually they gave in. Every female photography student in that school district stands on her shoulders without even knowing it.

There is still much for women to be outraged about, and even more for us to do. Every time you speak up and act up, it has an impact. Every little triumph makes the next one easier to achieve. Never give up.

Thanks, Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst. Every time I vote I think of you.

Feminism: Why does it Terrify You?

Without a doubt, my most polarizing blogs are the ones with even the slightest feminist theme, and that always astounds me. Honestly, if you look at the definition, what on earth could you possibly take issue with?


[fem-uh-niz-uhm] noun

1. The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

2. An organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

3. Feminine character.

What could possibly be wrong with wanting equal rights, equal pay, and respect? What’s the problem with not wanting to be sexually harassed? Can there possibly be people out there, in this day and age, who think women deserve to be abused either physically, sexually, or emotionally?

The vast majority of feminists aren’t man-hating, bra-burning radicals who expect special treatment. We just want equal treatment. Is that too much to ask? What I find sad it that we even have to ask.

How is it possible that men can see women as inferior when they have without a doubt had mothers, sisters, and aunts? How do you look at those people sitting down with you at the dinner table and think, “this one deserves more out of life than that one.”

I realize this is an extremely complex issue. As long as there are women in the world who are gang raped on buses, as long as female babies are aborted simply for being female, as long as there are forced marriages and travel restrictions and genital mutilation and glass ceilings, there will be a need for a feminist movement. But fundamental equality, for anyone who has even the slightest bit of common sense, should not be something to fear.

I suppose that in any situation in which there is an anticipation of any form of power shift, however slight, someone is bound to feel threatened. But honestly, guys, you have nothing to worry about. We’re not going to make you wear aprons or, God forbid, pink, if you don’t want to. And if we ask you to step up and wash the occasional dish, it won’t kill you.

Everything is going to be all right. Really.