Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Woman's Day: Why Are we Celebrating?

I originally wanted to do a series about women that we hold in high esteem, but I didn't get enough contributions.  As I began thinking through the entire concept of the day, I have come to realize that I feel about International Woman's Day and Women's History Month, much the way I feel about Black History month.  It is another case where we celebrate an additive.  There should be no need for this month or this day to exist, but it does, because women are still far from equal.  If you are a marginalized woman, the trip to equality is even longer than those who are White, Cis, Straight, middle/upper class and TAB. 

I also believe that in many ways, International Woman's Day is divisive.  As I have been reading through various blogs, I have noticed that Black blogs are focusing solely on Black Women, Disability Blogs are focusing on disabled women, many feminist blogs are writing about feminists with a token inclusion of various marginalized women, etc. This is not inclusive; it basically comes down to every woman for herself, while we claim to celebrate womanhood. Intersectionality should mean that we recognize that there are women who are lesbians and White, or disabled and Black, or Trans with class privilege. No one body can represent womanhood, but when we divide into various corners, we fail our sheroes by claiming a singular identity for them.  I have for instance, seen Harriet Tubman mentioned on many Black blogs.  She is continually referred to as the Black Moses who ran the underground railroad; however, too many see fit to ignore the fact that she was a disabled woman.  Admitting that a shero had to deal with other marginalizations does not reduce her, it elevates her accomplishments.

The other issue I have with the day, is that we have a tendency to highlight certain women.  I will always love, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Angela Davis, but I know that there are so many women I don't know because they have erased from the history books.  Even as I look at the list that I created, I have to acknowledge that they are all Black and a product of my experience and therefore, even as I talk about divisions between women, I am a part of the problem. Instead of talking about women who made the history books, or are considered movers and shakers today, I wonder why there is so little room to talk about our female friends, family members, neighbors, or women in our communities that work everyday on the project of elevating womanhood?

There are two days a year when patriarchy pretends to care about women: International Woman's Day and Mother's Day.  It really comes down to a token inclusion.  What does it really mean to set aside two days in an entire year to assert the importance of women?  If women really mattered, there would be equal representation of all women in every field.  Picking a day or even a month, is not a celebration of women, it is tokenism. That we run clamoring to celebrate this tokenism, says that we are ready to except the few crumbs that are granted to us.  I want equality for all women.  I want women to matter 12 months a year.  I want women's studies to be part of the curriculum from the first grade. It is not about politicizing children, but about teaching boys from an early age to check their privilege, and teaching little girls that they can achieve anything.

We need to extend the feeling of this day and this month beyond it's original boundaries. There should never be a day when women don't matter.  I don't think we should be dancing to the piper and celebrating when we are expected to celebrate.  Women matter everyday damn it, and until patriarchy realizes this, there is no time to celebrate - only time to put dig our heels in and keep digging.  Our lives, and our daughters lives demand no less.