Today is International Women’s Day. I wrote about it last year, bringing up economic disparity, violence towards women, and emphasizing the importance of self esteem. This year I could quote all kinds of similar statistics, and add to the conversation the multiple instances of politicians attempting to change the face of women’s reproductive health care by infusing it with misogynist “morality” related proposals. Or discuss the Rush Limbaugh debacle, where he called a Georgetown law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she made statements to a House committee regarding birth control. Thanks Rush, you paragon of virtue, for seizing an opportunity to enhance the situation with your misanthropic vitriol. I could discuss how after the Grammys were broadcast, there were a shocking number of ladies tweeting about how Chris Brown was so hot, they would TOTALLY let him punch them in the face. Way to go, sisters who suck. Or that the US trails behind much of the world, ranking 90th, in the number of women in national legislature. Or that the 2010 election marked the first time since 1987 that the US made no progress in electing more women to Congress. I could go on and on with depressing numbers and disheartening news stories and we could all throw our hands in the air and say THAT SUCKS in unison…waking up to March 9th to celebrate the 53rd birthday of Barbie. A doll that if she were real, would have a 38 inch bust, an 18 inch waist, and 33 inch hips.
Holy crap, at 53 years old with those boobs, her back must be killing her. Someone get Barbie some Aleve.
In deciding what to write in regards to Women’s Day, I came to the conclusion that the only information I could share with any hopes of making an impression is my own story.
I grew up in a middle class household in a suburb outside Seattle. My mother divorced my father when I was six and subsequently remarried another man who was my stepfather during all of my formative years. Nothing happened that would rate the making of a movie for the Lifetime channel; we had enough money, there was no abuse or even heated arguments around the dinner table. My mother told me not to come home pregnant or in a cop car, but other than that, I could make my own decisions. She never gave me much advice or guidance at all, really.….I just came to conclusions based on her examples. Conclusions like: everyone else’s needs come before your own, never expose your imperfections to the world, and it doesn’t really matter what YOU want to do with your life, just find a man to take care of you. So off I went sailing out into the universe with not much in the way of a tacking strategy. I lived with a few boyfriends and moved here and there and made friends and changed jobs and generally did the best I could, mostly putting everyone else’s needs before my own, trying not show my imperfections to the world, and figuring although I didn’t need a man to take care of me, it didn’t really matter what I wanted to do with my life, I should just focus on getting by.
In the last nineteen months that I’ve been on my own, I’ve had a lot of time to cull through my core beliefs and make changes for the better. I get now that putting yourself first is the best way to have quality relationships, that sharing your imperfections and mistakes publically is a litmus test to attract people who are secure and deflect fakers, and that following my creative bliss is more important than material wealth. I’ve recognized that the only person standing in the way of my success is me, which is strangely liberating, as I’m the only person I have any control over.
Okay, you’re thinking, when exactly is she getting to the point about Women’s Day? It’s my goal to use the aforementioned epiphany to help women realize their strengths and their potential to improve the world. We can’t change the minds of the Rick Santorums, the Rush Limbaughs, the Fred Phelps, the advertising morons who bring you shit like this.
But we can speak our minds about what’s acceptable. Recognize that your spending decisions are important. Women account for an estimated 85% of consumer purchases. Support women in business in your community and research and avoid companies with tired, sexist ad campaigns. Volunteer or donate to charities and organizations that promote and assist women. When faced with sexist remarks, (or homophobic or racist, for that matter), voice your dissenting view point. These things might be prove to be inconvenient, possibly unpleasant, sometimes time consuming, perhaps with no discernible change for the better immediately available for an Aha! moment so you can feel all Oprah-tastic about yourself…..but keep in mind that the next generation learns from you, from what you do and say, and from what you don’t do and don’t say. If we start telling all the young girls in our lives that they are important and valued and should be respected and that they should study hard and use their brain power to grow up to be ANYTHING THEY WANT TO BE, that would be huge. That their looks do not determine their potential. That a healthy body of any size is a beautiful one. That their sexuality is something to be celebrated, not a commodity. Because no matter what sort of material possessions one might receive for “putting out”, you’re still selling yourself short. Imagine a world with more Adele, less Snooki. More Christiane Amanpour, less Kim Kardashian. More Tavi Gevinson (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/magazine/how-sassy-is-tavi-gevinson.html), less Paris Hilton. That we don’t want special treatment. We want equal treatment. We aren’t a special interest group, we’re over half the population. That their contributions and leadership will be pivotal in shaping the world for the better.
In an effort to be the change that I want to see, I attended a screening of Miss Representation last night. (http://www.missrepresentation.org/) The documentary explores the correlation between the media’s treatment of women and their underrepresentation in positions of influence across the board. I was surrounded by inner city teens who were fired up to end gender stereotypes and become more media literate. I was particularly inspired by the film’s message that women sharing their stories will be an instrumental part of changing the shift in consciousness…..you know I love to celebrate story power!
I know many enlightened men who are equally sick of sexist double standards and to them I say THANK YOU. Have a great Women’s Day, all.