International Women’s Day, 2011

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD).  I can hear the groan growing among some readers, mostly male, but some women too, who think the day a sexist celebration of all things women.

When’s International Men’s Day? I came across this question in my reading this past week.  Of course.  It’s such an original comeback.  There are days named in honour of male historical figures:  George Washington, Martin Luther King, and Louis Riel come to mind.  Labour day was largely won by male unionists (who do not have a history of welcoming women into their working midst).  And then there’s Christmas and Easter.  Need I say more?

So yeah, International Women’s Day, founded when women couldn’t vote and had limited access to education and employment.  Yet despite such restrictions, we still found something to celebrate and much more for which to be hopeful.

It’s difficult for many women in the western world to comprehend the restrictions that once ruled our lives not because of what we could or couldn’t do, but just because we were women.  We just have to look around the world to other locales to see how far we’ve come, and how much further we have to go.

And we have much, much further to go.

For many women around the world, equality is a word that holds little meaning in their lives.  The birth of a boy baby is still an occasion of celebration while a baby girl requires an apology.  The over-supply of men in China is a direct result of the privilege that boy babies enjoy.  Not so much fun when those babies grow into men and they want a woman to create a family with and there’s not enough women to go around.  That’s one way, I suppose, of increasing the value of women, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening.  Instead, women are being brought in from other asian cultures, and racism is added to sexism as Korean or Vietnamese women are accorded secondary status as non-Chinese in a Chinese world.

We in the western world enjoy the highest rates of survival in terms of childbirth.  Having a baby in Canada is a relatively safe procedure.  We have midwives and ob/gyns as well as family docs as part of the health care team.  In many parts of the world, women still suffer in childbirth, with death and crippling morbidity the result of unsanitary conditions, poor prenatal care, and being miles and miles away from the nearest medical facility.  Obstetric fistula is endemic in some African countries, Yemen, Sudan etc. These women become pariahs their communities, shunned as outcasts.  And of course, sadly, thousands of women continue to die giving life.

I’m not going to go into the multiple and various ways in which women, everywhere, still experience discrimination and violence.  Just pick up a newspaper – or follow my Facebook wall.  Lest we forget.

But.  This is supposed to be a day of celebration of how far we’ve come.  Maybe it’s hardwired or environmentally sparked, but we women know how to throw a party.  There are educational events, movie screenings, breakfast, lunch and dinner parties, and some dancing even!  All week long.

Celebrations for IWD are organized for the whole week.  The events in Hamilton can be found here.  The IWD website has an event finder that shows events around the world.  The UK has the highest number of IWD events registered (452), of the UK, Canada, the US and Australia.  India has 59.  Just a demonstration of how popular the day has become and to illustrate the international solidarity that women share.

So – get out there and celebrate the day, everyday.

Cheers!

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