March 8, the International Women’s Day, is important in a great part of the world. I like it for what it is: a reminder that women still don’t have equal rights and opportunities in a large part of the world and are even second-class citizens by law in many places. A way to remember how far we have come from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, even with so many similar factories around the world today whose shirts we buy and wear. An occasion to decide to abandon stereotypes about what it means to be feminine and follow the paths we choose, bravely: motherhood and public influence, discovering the beauty and exploring the darkness of the universe, and the right to be tired sometimes 🙂 .
I also get cards and lots of wishes for this day. Sometimes they are related to the celebration of womanness. Other times they try to remind me of why this day is still necessary. And still other times, the person who writes or calls feels that the day is important, but then makes it to be a holiday just as any other, similar to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or a birthday. And it is not.
Women’s Day is not like Valetine’s Day (which I hate anyway) – it’s not for the women we love. It’s for all women. It is not Mother’s Day, because it’s not just women who are mothers. And it is not exactly a birthday, because it is not a personal celebration, but rather the feeling of community and of sisterhood. It is not really a holiday.
So, if you want to wish someone for the International Women’s Day, let’s mark it by honoring a woman – your mom, but also your daughter, and an influential woman in your life. Wouldn’t a little girl feel so empowered to know being a woman is great? And if you send a message to a woman who is important to you, whom you may not even know, that will certainly make her day – and inspire her to do the things she does to inspire you.
Another great way to celebrate is to write about what you would like the world to be so that it becomes a better place for women. Find an international NGO focusing on women and support it. Donate to a fund that gives microcredit to rural women enterpreneurs. Volunteer to translate for a woman immigrant and teach her how to read and write, if she can’t. Organize a reading group for women.
And these are the well-meaning wishes I don’t like to get:
To be beautiful. Women are under such pressure to be beautiful. And this has done more harm than good. After all, do we wish this to a child? A man? I don’t want a wish that implies I have to change something about myself or try hard to stay the way I am.
To be loved/to feel loved. I wouldn’t dare send someone a card suggesting an anxiety that he or she may not be loved as it is. What’s the point of the celebration, then, and the feeling of community?
I don’t like to get a gift on that day implying a need to change (a cosmetic product), a household appliance (that’s for the house, not for me). I would accept a potted flower, though, for its symbolic meaning of nurturing nature 🙂 Or, better yet, a book.
What are the wishes you want to get on this day?