International Women s Day grounded in equality for all people

March 9, 2017 GMT

In the book “Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics” writer, feminist, and social activist bell hooks writes, “If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.” The same could also be said of males as well; after all, feminism is firmly fixed in the desire for equality within gender roles for all sexes, not just females. As Gloria Steinem affirmed, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Of course, women are more culturally conditioned to seek validation and to accept less than men in various facets of life, including the home, the workplace, the military, and politics. Celebrated this week on Wednesday, International Women’s Day intends to acknowledge the integral roles of women in society. Rooted in the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union, the celebration was organized by the Socialist Party of America in 1909 in remembrance of the event. In 1913, Russian women observed the first such celebration on the last Saturday in February. In 1914, the day was changed to March 8. Leon Trotsky, a Marxist theorist and revolutionary, wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike... all went out into the streets.” Having obtained its origins in communism, the holiday was predominantly honored originally in communist countries. It was officially adopted in 1917, following the Soviet Revolution, and in China starting in 1922. In 1975, the United Nations (UN) began celebrating the holiday, and the UN General Assembly petitioned member states in 1977 to declare March 8 as a day to uphold “women’s rights and world peace.” Each year the celebration takes on a different theme. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” Technology leader Google got into the act by crafting some of their “Doodles,” images and videos that pop up when the search engine page loads, to honor famous women in history. Their selected group included well-known women such as journalist Ida B. Wells, artist Frida Kahlo, and astronaut Sally Ride—along with lesser known successful women such as Miriam Makeba (South African singer and civil rights activist), Ada Lovelace (English mathematician, writer, and the first female computer programmer), and Suzanne Lenglen (the French tennis champion credited with popularizing the sport). This year’s International Women’s Day underscored the importance of women in particular segments of society, especially education. Many women joined in solidarity throughout the U.S. by wearing red, staying home from work, and refusing to spend money in order to exhibit their collective voices. The Los Angeles Times reported that “‘A Day without a Woman’ for many means a day without school,” a headline of an article that reported how schools across the nation were forced to close because the majority of teachers across America are women. Teachers who took the day off spent the time marching in organized protests and writing letters to their Congresspersons. Although the day serves as an important reminder, Jo Angela Edwins, one of my friends and former University of Tennessee at Knoxville colleagues expressed a viable point on social media. She writes, “So, I’m a woman. I regularly teach women’s literature. I have several women friends, family, and students who impress the heck out of me all the time. What I really would like? A world in which we don’t need to organize [a day] to remind ourselves to treat women with the respect that men receive. But alas, we don’t live in that world yet. May we never lose the hope that allows me to tack the word “yet” onto the previous sentence or the energy to work toward a better reality.” Her insight is on point. Likewise, as CEO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg says, “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” Some of us are working diligently and optimistically toward that day. (Daily Corinthian columnist Stacy Jones teaches English at McNairy Central High School and UT Martin and has served on the board of directors at Corinth Theatre-Arts. She enjoys being a downtown Corinth resident.)