Today kind of makes me sick, a little bit. It’s International Women’s Day. If you didn’t already know the history behind how this National day came to be, know that it has been part of the making since as far back as the late 1800s. It was nationally recognized in 1909, and has since evolved over the years with the ever changing needs in women’s rights.
While today, this day is mostly observed by inspirational quotes on social media, the importance of its history is never too far from the surface. A quick visit over to the Wikipedia page will tell you this fun fact:
On March 8, 1917, on the Gregorian calendar, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, women textile workers began a demonstration, covering the whole city. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism. Leon Trotsky 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 the 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.” Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
That’s right, we caused a revolution.
And every year since, International Women’s Day has had a theme, usually to continue forward movement in making this world a better place. This year’s theme is
“The Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”
That sounds so good, doesn’t it? It sounds big.
And the time is now. More so than ever, as we seem to have gone a bit backward over these last couple of years in our forward thinking.
I am, by reason of necessity, not a political person. I have my opinions, I am a practicing registered voter. I try to look at all sides, and weigh the practicalities of wants and needs. I have seen both sides of a political argument, and understand that both have merit and worth. To be respectful of my peers, I do not comment one way or the other over a dinner time debate topic.
But I unapologetically support the cause, the call, and the need for attention to women’s rights.
I had another blog written up, all ready to go. But then, I had a conversation with a peer. I came to this person with respect, kindness, and dignity in mind. I am forever telling my husband and my children that you can say what you need to say, but find a way to say it kindly. Regardless of who I am talking to and what I have to say, I try my best to choose kind words.
In turn, his response was nothing short of degrading and dismissive.
What we were talking about doesn’t matter. Who I was talking to doesn’t matter.
What matters is, that there are still men out there that have no fucking clue how to speak to a woman with equal respect.
This is not ok.
And this is not an isolated incident.
My day job happens to keep me in the company of a majority of men. Now I will speak up for them and say that for the most part I am respected as a governing voice. But when I have something to say, there is this little voice inside me that asks me, am I going to be heard?
Is what I say valid enough to get their attention? Are they going to laugh at me or roll their eyes?
How sad is that? This is 2018, I should not be having these thoughts. But I do. And it’s because I am continually exposed to men who think it okay to dismiss my opinions, my thoughts, my concerns as nothing more than a loud mom alarm.
And the funny thing is, all of these men consider themselves to be feminists. If you ask any of them, they will tell you that women have just as many rights as they do. That women are no more or no less important or valid as they are. I am sure that the majority of them are rightfully scared of their mothers and their wives. They demand respect for their daughters.
And if I said to any one of them that something they said was disresepectful, I know hands down they would apologize.
But here we are, still needing to bring it up. Because they have no idea they are doing it. That’s the saddest thing in the world to me.
A few months ago there was a massive #metoo movement. As I scrolled through post after post on social media, I thought of my own moment in time. Every girl has got one. When I was 18, I was with a group of people, and a man that I did not know in this group not only rubbed himself unwelcomingly against me, but in a moment when he thought it would go well, he grabbed my hand and shoved it down his pants. I did nothing to encourage this behavior, and in fact, did everything I could to respectfully (not that he deserved it) deny his advances for the better part of the evening. Eventually, another man came to my rescue, but in turn expected some gratitude. When he realized he wasn’t going to get it, he quickly set me back in the hands of my girlfriend and went on his way.
A knight in not so shining armor, I suppose.
Even as I recounted the evening in my own mind, I asked myself, “What did I do?”
Nothing. I did nothing. But I was too young and too sheltered to realize that then.
The people that know about this moment in my life I can count on less than one hand. And when I shared this story with one of them, who happens to be a man, the first thing out of his mouth was “Yeah, but you were kind of leading him on.”
Because I danced with him. Because I chose to inch away quietly as best I could as he closed the space between our bodies and didn’t rightfully punch him in the face as I should have. Because I didn’t say anything to him leading up to the “Knock it off!” I shouted at him when I yanked my hand from his grasp in his pants when I felt his genitalia against my fingers. Apparently my silence was consent.
For the record, my silence was shock. And nothing more.
I couldn’t believe my ears. This man, who I respect with everything that I am. Who I know would march right beside me for my right to be heard, to vote, to have equal rights…
This man said, “Yeah, but you were kind of leading him on…”
Oh my friends, we have so much more fight left in this battle.
It saddens me that on this day, of all days, I am reminded that there is still a problem. That of all the big battles we have waged and won, we come home to this from the men who stand WITH us. Today I have to remind my male friends that I am not a child. That I deserve as much respect as they would give to their boss. Today I had to start out my day reminded of how very, very far we are from our goals.
So as you see the cheery reminders of International Women’s Day and you gladly celebrate your sisters, your mothers, your wives, your daughters and your friends please remember that while the big wars may have all been won, it’s the little daily battles that drain us.
Choose kind words.
Choose respectful words.
Choose to consider my voice as valid as your own.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
– Mother Teresa.