Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is There A Nonstop To Suffragette City?

Over the weekend I took a writing workshop where when I was done reading my story, I was asked the big question, “So what is this story REALLY about?”  When putting down an actual event from your history on paper, you are forced to ask yourself (or in the case of the workshop, answer to others), “What do I want others to get out of this?  Why THIS story?  What’s the fucking point here?”  Getting to the meta of the matter, perhaps.  My reply was that EVERY story I write seems to lead to the same place, my desire to express how powerful it can be to be a woman.  I’ve been concerned about burning out this theme, but then I pondered, what else is more important to talk about?
Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  From internationalwomensday.com: International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday.  I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been a fan of Annie Lennox on Facebook, which shows how much I was paying attention.  I appreciate that it is a celebration of women’s achievements, and there are so many to celebrate!  But women still make less money than men, violence against women is still a major concern (according to Amnesty International, at least one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching 70% in some countries), and rape is a weapon of war.  From a Time magazine article on IWD of 2010: “What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted — for having gone out without her weapon? Or that, as Representative Jane Harman puts it, "a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire."  I could continue to quote sources and get myself into a lather about this, it makes me so fucking pissed off.  Which leads us to, what do we do?

Good question.  There are many good organizations that support women on all sorts of levels, if you want to make a monetary donation or volunteer with them, I’d leave it up to you to research which ones you really feel good about.  There are cool campaigns like NOW’s Love Your Body, WeAreEquals.org, Change.org has many worthy causes, your neighborhood no doubt has a women’s shelter, and again I could go on and on.  But let’s talk about things on a smaller level.  Do you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship?  Can you lend an ear?  We all figure that adults can take care of themselves, but have you offered your opinion and your support to help?  Do you have women in your life that have low self esteem?  (If you’re saying NO, you either know no women or have amazingly evolved friends and I’d like to hear your secret)  Have you told these women how beautiful, how smart, how important they are?  Do you know someone with an eating disorder?  I’m sure you see what I’m getting at here. 

But what if you got to the heart of the matter and looked at yourself?   I had plans to spend some time with a gentleman friend of mine this coming weekend;  he’s a nice enough man that I’ve encouraged myself to hang out with even though we have no long term potential as he’s nice, good looking, he bakes pies, plays the piano, and means well.  And the world at large would tell me at my advanced age (44), that I should be happy with what I can get in that department.  What I was ignoring in this equation is that this most happy fellow doesn’t particularly care about what goes on in my life, has no interest in my friends or family, and often makes remarks that convey his insecurity about the fact that I make more money than he does, a fact that means nothing to me.  I’ve just been accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative, latching on to the affirmative and spending time with Mr. In Between.  I thought it over carefully, realizing I’d rather be alone than trying to make a half full glass more than it is.  Even for one weekend.

Years ago I saw Maya Angelou speak in Seattle.  She was, of course, charming and lovely and moving with every well chosen word.  Before reciting “Phenomenal Woman”, perhaps her best known poem, she told us all that a man had recently stopped her to tell her how much he loved and admired the poem, HOWEVER, what about men?  They are strong and sensitive and have love to give and can be great husbands and fathers.  They deserved to be acknowledged for their accomplishments as well, no?  Maya’s response?  “Write your own damn poem.”  So there you go.

Before you think I’ve gone all feminazi/man basher on you, I do feel that some man, perhaps even more than one, holds the keys to my heart, which is currently closed for repairs.  But he’s going to have to dangle them in my face, because for right now I’m busy.  Busy trying to make every day a better place for Team Vagina.  I would LOVE to hear any input you have on this subject, or any other, if you’re reading this.  Happy International Women’s Day, friends. 


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

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