Do we still need a special day for women?
I am writing this week’s blog on International Women’s Day. You might think that a special day to focus on women should no longer be necessary. Surely women and girls are a major part of the human race and should not need to be singled out, but unfortunately you would be wrong, or at least overly optimistic, if you were to believe that anything near equality of opportunity or equality under the law has yet been achieved. Women, although we have come a long way, still do not have physical safety, financial parity or other equal rights before the laws of the nations on this planet.
As we move to the more modern wars, we can not help but see rape and trafficking becoming very visible aspects of them. These are not just the practices of so-called “unenlightened” parts of the world. The entire planet is in recovery from patriarchal laws and practices, from viewing females as the possessions of males’ households and from solving problems with violence. Perhaps we do move two steps forward and one backward, but can we as a species evolve beyond legalized fighting and killing as a way to solve or never solve our differences?
In the United States, the simple proposition that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” has not yet been approved. Yes, social change is slow and psychological change intricately intertwined with it. More and more of us can move beyond and resist the cultural restrictions on girls and women. Many others cannot and come to accept that they are no more than they are told that they are. This is a social and psychological problem of huge import and with which feminist psychology and sociology have been working since the 1970’s in the United States and more and more in other countries in and outside of the West. This is the issue of how exquisitely social human beings are. We are made to have what others tell us and think of us matter.
How long does it have to take before girls and women on this planet are physically and psychologically safe and afforded the human right to education, employment and other arenas where equality lags. Today I am impatient. The truth is that I am impatient on many days, while I also try to hold in my mind and heart all the changes that we have been able to make just in my lifetime. There is no way that my mother’s generation could have had access to the education and opportunities that I have had and the same is so of may girls growing up today. We can not imagine what they will do.
The younger generation of girls and women, joined more and more by supportive boys and men, have their own struggles to wage and often in very different ways and with very different tools than we had. There is no way to compare the world wide web to the mimeograph machines we used in the 1970’s and this is as it should be. The development of effective birth control at the same time was inextricably intertwined with the possibility of women shaping our own lives. Technology and science make the same progress that makes it possible and psychological and sociological change follows. This is evolution. It is not linear.
International Women’s Day is still needed, but it is not what it was in 1908. The women and men I see celebrating today come from all parts of the globe, all ethnicities, classes and social groups, linking arms to stand for change. And change is what we will have. Even if it is unbearable slow on some days, it is also inevitable.