Today is International Women’s Day. You may be weary of this kind of caveat, but this will be a short post, not nearly all I want to write. By way of explanation, I worked through the night Wednesday, until 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, preparing to staff two hearings at work yesterday. I was focused and effective yesterday and I pulled off a job despite having severely misjudged what it was going to take to prepare… but I did not go to work today–Friday. (I sometimes have Fridays “off” as the lingo goes when a working mother stays home and works at home rather than at her paid job.)
But. I could not let the day pass without honoring International Women’s Day and reminding you to do so too. So, here are a few thoughts for this auspicious day. My first awareness and celebration of International Women’s Day was March 8– I believe when I was 19. I was a student in Madison, Wisconsin at the time and I think it was about 18 degrees that day. I remember the cold and the brilliant sunshine of that day, vividly. In honor of International Women’s day, there was a day of workshops and talks and hands on activities at the Wilmar Neighborhood Center in Madison. I remember many things about that day, but the thing I remember most was the sense of joy and energy and invigoration of being a young woman, celebrating International Women’s Day with many other young women. My mind opened further that day.
This morning I drove my partner to work and remembered what day it was, just as she was getting out of the car and I wished her a happy International Women’s Day. She paused and sat back down and said how lucky she felt that she had married someone (me, and no we are not married, but that is another story) who was a strong feminist. She said she couldn’t imagine her life if her partner had not been a strong feminist as she is and as I am. It was a wonderful, brief but deep talk and then she went on her way and I went on mine.
Then I called my old friend– a friend who was my housemate for many years in Madison. We were friends and we were sisters together in feminism, and in figuring out many things for ourselves as young women. She went with me that cold day to that International Women’s Day celebration when we were 19. She didn’t remember the event at all, but was so glad I called. We had a long-ish talk about her having made the decision to care for her mother at the end of her mother’s life which she did, intensively, for about 7 or 8 years and about the job of mothering. We talked about what an honor it is to take excellent care of someone. This fact is made complex by sexism and by the de facto requirement of sexism, worldwide, that women be caregivers without fully getting to choose and without pay and generally under impossible conditions. Having this conversation with a beloved woman friend was also a good way to honor the day.
One of the important things I do every year for International Women’s day is simply this. I remember that it is International Women’s day and I talk about it. So. Let this be a reminder to us, to take ourselves and our sisters and our daughters and our mothers and our women friends seriously. Let us fight for justice and not ignore the injustices of our own lives, nor those of other women– in our neighborhoods, of our own race or other races, in our own country or far from us– let us see and let us fight for justice. And let us enjoy our lives as women right now.
That’s it for now. Except for one more thing. I’d like you, today if you read this today, or tomorrow or a week from now, to do this, in honor of International Women’s day. Remind someone that today is/ was International Women’s day and then spend a few minutes and each take a turn and have the other listen. In each turn each of you should tell the other the names of five women in your current life and five women you don’t know (total of ten) you admire. And why. That’s it, just do that. For me. For you. For all women.
Here today, just today at this moment, with my tired, fuzzy mind, here is my list. It is not exhaustive (though I am exhausted). It is not in any order. These are not the women I admire more than others, it’s just my list for today.
A few Women I know and love and admire:
1. My mother, R.
2. My sister, J.
3. My daughter, N.
4. My partner, M.
5. My friend and former teacher, Evi Beck
6. My friend and family, Urvashi Vaid
7. My friend and family A.S. in Wisconsin and L.C. and her daughters in California. (I cheated and did seven-plus, you can also if you like)
From the famous and not known personally or no longer with us category:
8. Adrienne Rich
9. Audre Lorde
10. Dolores Huerta
11. Hillary Clinton
12. My beloved and so many others’ beloved, Grace Paley
13. Courageous female union leaders: Mary Kay Henry, Randi Weingarten and Karen Lewis
14. Senator Tammy Baldwin
15. From the Torah, Ruth and Naomi– for sticking together
That’s my list and that’s it for today. Make your list out loud with at least one other person and be sure to appreciate yourself (if you are a woman) and be sure to appreciate many, many women in your life. Happy International Women’s day.