Happy International Women’s Day to all of you folks with vaginas or who identify as a folk with a vagina. Today you can forget that you only make 78 cents to a male’s $1, but celebrate the fact that this year we’ve probably come closer to gender parity than we’ve ever been – and let’s hope it continues that way year after year.
My mom has always been my role model – an unintentional feminist, I think. The first time I became hyperaware of my position in our gendered society was when I was a sophomore in high school. At the time, the politician Gavin Newsom, was campaigning for governor. My parents are socially liberal and we’re from California, so a lot of his ideologies were those we could get behind. You think you know a lot as a high school student, and because of it – I quickly jumped on the Gavin Newsom bandwagon – not fully understanding each and every one of his ideologies I was supporting. I soon became a student ambassador for “Students for Gavin Newsom,” running the county’s chapter by garnering support from local students at my high school and surrounding schools.
As I went to a Catholic high school, this wasn’t welcomed immediately by some of the students. I got push back by my peers, which was expected. However, what I hadn’t expected was how the school shut down my ability to campaign/ even talk about the campaign at school. I was upset and confronted school administration, and the major point they cited that disrupted my campaigning efforts (albeit, they did give me a lot of credit for trying) was that Gavin Newsom was a pro-choice candidate and this was a Catholic school.
Of course, I should have known better. However, this was an eye-opening moment for me as my upbringing and background in the Catholic schooling system, was suddenly at odds with my personal beliefs.
Why should the Church have a say in what a woman does with her body? And for arguments sake, why should the Church have a say in what I do with MY body? Moreover, I had also come to the grueling conclusion that even if elected office, and as much as I had (and still very much do) support him, Gavin Newsom – a white male, would be very much in charge of how legislation shifted in things like abortion, pay equality, work hours, etc.
5-6 years later I decided to audit a class on Gender in Politics. I had time to kill and had previously heard this professor speak on a few occasions and really liked her. Plus, gender & society was always something that interested me. I was in LOVE with the professor and everything we talked about. I was probably in over my head (in retrospect, i was ABSOLUTELY in over my head), but never had a more interesting/intriguing and thought provoking class that I was genuinely interested in. She encouraged me to talk about my beliefs and how I felt about certain legislations / rules / preconceptions about women all over the world.
I had always considered myself a feminist. However, it wasn’t until this class that I really understood how women’s rights is both an overall desire for gender parity, but how unique feminism can be in different parts of the world.
It’s always been interesting to me how feminists reconcile their differences with each other. How a feminist in New York, can sympathize and truly understand a feminist in Africa. Or better yet, how a feminist in California can better learn about what being a feminist is, from say a feminist in Iran.
I wrote an intensive research paper on how feminists involved in US based “Slut Walks” still support the general message of feminism that can be relatable to women in Africa and the U.K. lobbying against Female Genital Mutilation. While extremely diverse topics, they both come to the same conclusion – that women can do as they please, and shouldn’t have to worry about others (particularly the male sex) assaulting them for it.
I still have a lot of questions and am trying to understand what international feminism truly means when women across the world have such diverse needs and wants. While some feminists are Kesha’s right to stop working with her sexual abuser, some feminists in the Middle East are working with NGOs to find ways to keep women alive in the face of danger and sexual abuse. And its no discredit to one or the other. If anything, I think International Women’s Day is a time to truly realize the diverse and varying problems and discriminations women face all over the world and what we, as a collective society, can do about it.
For once, it may be a time to pause our conversations about what women are lacking, but instead celebrate what women around the world have today.
Also, incase you or your friends are wondering – International Men’s Day is November 19th.