International Women’s Day – Oh Happy Day!

international-womens-dayMarch 8th was International Women’s Day – oh happy day! All over social media, many joined in to express support of the idea, including yours truly via my blog, Buenos Diaz. I spoke a bit of my own little personal triumph as a woman then gave homage to some of my favorite female authors. I shared select quotes or passages from their work that moved me, inspired me, or made me laugh out loud like a crazy person. I felt great about the post- I celebrated the work of a few fabulous females even if in a small way.

Moments after posting it and promoting it on social media, I saw a post from one of my good friends Celina, someone I consider a consummate feminist. Her post read:
“I think this Women’s Day business is kinda gross, 1 day!? March as “Womens Month”, 1 month!? Pardon my French but what the F is that about? We run sh*t, carry children, and literally GIVE LIFE to the entire planet and we are supposed to feel special because we get 1 day of recognition? All the women I know are Boss Bitches 366 days of the year.”

This gave me pause, not because her argument wasn’t valid, but because we’d landed on such different ends of the spectrum with our opinions. I wasn’t able to engage fully due to a family commitment that I had to rush off to, but I did quickly comment:

“I actually disagree here – I still think it should be celebrated! It calls attention to an important issue. It’s like a birthday- I like you year round and I show you that as often as I can. I do however think it a great idea to celebrate the particular date of your birth, that one day, with a little extra pomp and circumstance.”

Celina responded by saying she agreed with me in part but overall felt conflicted; she could see why some women would get behind this day but overall felt “icky” about it. I thought about the back and forth that resulted here as well as with countless other posts and got excited to write about this dialogue for so many different reasons.

First, what exactly is International Women’s Day? According to the UN Women Watch website, it is “a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.” The United Nations began celebrating IWD on March 8, 1975 during what was designated as International Women’s Year. The 70s saw a huge gain in momentum for the feminist movement, and the UN decided it was about time someone called attention to the need to celebrate women’s achievements with as much gusto as that of their male counterparts.

Knowing what IWD is and what it stands for in a most basic sense then, who was right, me or Celina? We both were, and we both are. See, Celina has every right to get hot and bothered over this issue. The plight of women in this country and around the world has seen marked improvements over the last few decades in comparison to the state of their rights and general treatment long ago, but there is still so much inequity, still so much work to be done.

For example, the New York Times just published an article entitled “U.N. Finds ‘Alarmingly High’ Levels of Violence Against Women” wherein author Lynsey Addario sheds light on this sobering fact: though the pay gap is closing (yay), it will take another 75 years before women and men are paid equally for equal work (ick). The really scary part? The socioeconomic factors are only the beginning. Here are just a few of the appalling statistics named in the article:

• About 35 percent of women worldwide said they’ve been victims physical violence in their lifetime
• Though there are laws in 125 countries that specifically outlaw domestic violence, in several of these nations it is still legal to beat a woman within the confines of marriage.
• The World Health Organization found that 38 percent of women who are murdered are killed by their partners.
• A study conducted in the 28 countries of the European Union found that only 14 percent of women reported their most serious episode of domestic violence; they feared retaliation and a serious lack of implementation by law enforcement.
• A recent study found that domestic violence against women and children alone costs the global economy $4 trillion. You read that right…TRILLION.

Are you kidding me?! How on earth can Celina NOT be upset then when anyone with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account decides to pat themselves on the back because they shared a single hashtag on this one day out of the year and thinks all is right with the world? How maddening! Women are undermined and underprivileged 24/7/365; that needs to be brought to light more often, as in every day. Women also do and fight for and achieve a lot of great things 24/7/365; those accomplishments need to be celebrated and applauded year round as well.

Do I then regret my post about IWD? Not one bit, becomes this day is important. People who act as champions for women’s rights (or who love their fathers, or their mothers, or their significant others, etc.) do so all the time; they just use International Women’s Day (and Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day) to promote heightened awareness, to celebrate, to give a certain individual or group a special day all unto themselves in recognition of their all-around greatness. No one who is truly concerned with equality is going to walk up to a woman and say, “Soooo you get this one day. Just one. Tomorrow you don’t matter again. Want to get pizza?” any more than a conscious environmentalist is going to throw a Styrofoam, cigarette and non-dolphin-safe tuna party on all days but Earth Day. They just understand the value of using a designated calendar day to shout from the rooftops and remind everyone that we do indeed run sh*t.

My friend’s anger is more directed, I think, towards the people who really don’t care, those who either ignore a cause altogether or pretend to care once a year just to pat themselves on the back. These are the perpetrators of the “ick” factor, and we don’t want their fake concern anyway.

Lastly, in discussing the issue outside of social media with this friend of mine, she said to me, “You know, personally, I’m resolving this year to sit with my anger instead of dismissing it, to get pissed and not censor my feelings. I typically bury it so as not to rock the boat.”

My response to her was what I would say to all women: “Skrrrrrr – pump the brakes. Always speak your mind… I wouldn’t respect you if you didn’t.” As she herself had stated earlier, women should be entitled to disagree and have conflicting opinions on the subject, and any subject! It leads to a richer discussion, and I say yay to that.

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About This Blogger

Vanessa Diaz

Vanessa Diaz was born and raised in San Diego, California and is a proud alumnus of the University of Southern California. After a decade working for the same company where she interned during her senior year, Vanessa recently left Corporate America behind to pursue her passion for writing. She is an avid reader, wine lover and seeker of beautiful libraries and independent bookstores. She considers herself a feminist and champion for positive female body image. Her blog Buenos Diaz is an expression of everything from her love of travel to her passion for storytelling, her interest in women’s issues and penchant towards humorous social commentary.