I remember it well. It took 82 years for a woman called Kathryn Bigelow to become the first woman to win an Oscar for best director. She, Sandra Bullock (best actress) and Monique (best-supporting actress) looked beautiful in their designer gowns on Hollywood’s winning platform. The 2008 movie was The Hurt Locker. Women such as Bigelow, who have broken through the glass ceiling, are worth celebrating on International Women’s Day. But what exactly is this women’s day of celebration about?
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day, celebrated each March 8, began in the Soviet Union. It was originally called International Working Women’s Day.
Its purpose is to bring attention to the lack of representation and human rights available to women around the world. Elenor Roosevelt was partially responsible for bringing the celebration to North America. Maybe ‘celebration’ is not the correct word. ‘Day of acknowledgment’ seems more apt. Each year on March 8 women gather to acknowledge how far we have come in our protection, rights, inclusiveness and equality. We also acknowledge the work that needs to be done.
One of my favorite presentations to deliver to a room filled with women of all ages is Wondrous Western Women. It includes the story of the Famous5, the women who changed history in the British Empire by challenging the English law that women were non-persons. It also explores the progress of women having the right to own property, to be employed while being married and to have the right to vote. Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby!
Astonishingly, some people question whether feminism and International Women’s Day have become redundant. Is it really worth the bother? Men in Canada and elsewhere are cradling babies, changing diapers and taking paternity leave. Women are represented in most professional fields and many younger women are reluctant to use the F word—feminist. Not, me! I and many more still have our sleeves rolled up.
Women Are Still Behind
International Women’s Concerns
Millions of women and girls are forced into child-bride marriages or the sex industry. More have no access to education or political representation. In many war-torn countries, they are raped. The list goes on. My friend Linda Edgecombe became involved in Nepal where, according to UNESCO, over twenty thousand girls seven to sixteen years of age are in slavery (child contract labor). Linda sells scarfs at her speaking engagements to raise money to give scholarships to Nepalese girls so that they can attend school. Please read about Linda’s Nepal Project.
Amnesty International has an excellent record of working towards human rights for all. Les and I belong to Amnesty Canada.
North American Women’s Concerns
The stories of sexual predators such as Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby are frightening. There are more men than Cosby who drop drugs into women’s drinks. Then there are football teams who think it good sport to gang rape their fellow students. And, of course, the 2016 US election was fraught with deplorable name-calling of women.
After the Alberta MLA Sandra Jansen left the Conservative Party to joined the NDP she was attacked with verbal assaults that included, ‘clueless’, ‘bitch’ and ‘bimbo’. Also in Alberta since the recession, domestic violence has increased by 25%!
Some Canadian Facts
- Only 35% of Canadian management positions are held by women.
- Only 18% of businesses are owned by women (2005-2013).
- Women make up half of Canada’s population while being under-represented in political and leadership roles.
Under My Nose: Under Your Nose
When I presented in a small community I met a woman who could not afford to spend $8 to purchase my mini-book, Frantic Free. She had recently left an abusive relationship, moved her children to a safe place and was trying to rebuild her life.
Don’t Act Like a Girl!
Also during that weekend, I was told the story of the aftermath of a youth hockey match. A team comprising of girls won against a team of mostly boys (one girl is on the boys’ team). The coach of the losing team had forewarned the youngsters that if the girls’ team won, the boys would be required to wear tutus to the next game. Parents and coaches, who protested this blatant sexism, were told they should lighten up.
Don’t act like a girl is an affront to females & teaches boys to disrespect girls & women. Patricia Morgan
I agree with the disgruntled parents. I feel surprised that this threat is not considered an ethical violation by the governing hockey league. The boys’ punishment for losing was to be treated like girls (have to wear tutus). When adults make comments such as ” You are acting like a girl” they give the message that there is something very wrong with being a girl. In contrast, many girls walk and run with pride saying, “I am a Tom Boy!”
As long as being like a girl is considered less than, we have a sexism issue. The underlying message of girls and women being less than is more subtle than the old fashioned comments of dumb blondes and stupid females.
Yet, we need to be on guard for these subtleties. In addition, the girls in these types of situations are given the message that if they win, the boys, will be punished. Heaven help us if we go back to girls acting sweet and nice to please the boys.
For these and many more reasons I remain a feminist!
What We Can Do
If we want a community, a country and a world with equal opportunity and safety for girls and women, we need to take action. We need to raise both resilient boys and girls by encouraging their strengths and skills. We need to speak up when girls and women are labeled with derogatory terms. We need to empower girls and women to fully participate in activities and professions that interest them.
We need to support international initiatives such as International Women’s Day to add our number in protest of the denigration of women. We need to encourage women to not always be supporters but to accept support to walk and talk in their strength.
As Helen Reddy’s song goes:
If I have to, I can do anything
I am invincible
I am woman!
I rest my case. If you value girls and women, then International Women’s Day is worth the bother!
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.