Friday, March 7, 2014

Happy International Women's Day! We get a DAY to take off the Invisibility Cloak!

International Women's Day is a pretty important event outside the United States, and it isn't clear why it's not a bigger deal here in the US.  Perhaps the notion of solidarity with women around the globe just doesn't resonate in a society where women can't seem to get their minds around the idea of solidarity with each other.  Perhaps International Women's Day and the "Housewives" reality-show franchise, which seems to be the only (and soul-destroyingly) consistent presentation of women engaging with each other in the USA, just don't mix.  Perhaps we are too diverse--and too divisive--a culture to understand the need for women of all socio-economic levels, ethnicities, and values to stick up for themselves against a global patriarchal system that will try, by any means necessary, to limit women's autonomy, agency, and independence.

But IWD is an important day, even if I can say that my values--admittedly western, feminist, humanist, non-supernatural--probably are not those of many of the women in the world for whom the day is truly their only point of self-expression every year.  I experience cognitive dissonance whenever I try to rationalize organized religion and women's rights, for instance, but I know and respect many women who don't experience that confusion, for whom feminism and a supernatural worldview are not mutually exclusive.

What is disappointing is that for the rest of the year, women and women's freedom are more or less non-subjects, relegated to the back pages of newspapers and sources of sniggers and smarm in the visual media.  I think it was on IWD that the US Congress failed to renew the violence against women act last year.  It was finally renewed, but how many people heard about it?  On the other hand, St Patricks Day parades are all over the news--usually for the wrong reasons (because they tend to be organized and enjoyed by homophobic asses interested in getting blotto in the middle of the day).  And of course the guys all over the globe who do nothing but perpetrate horrors on their own populations have no trouble at all getting into the news and justifying their execrable behavior, including the slaughter and torture of women, LGBTQ people, and children.  But the victims?  Nah:  invisible.

It would be nice if our government--on all levels--and our society--on all levels--took women seriously.  If they did, then it would be likely that they would take steps to ameliorate all the elements of public policy that operate as stunning failures to address the real and pressing problems of women in American society: the failure to enact appropriate workplace childcare mandates; the failure to enact appropriate sanctions against sexual assault in the military; the failure to address the persistent poverty of single-parent Mom-led households; the failure to raise the minimum wage to one that is actually a living wage; the failure to educate and acculturate men to social norms that don't oppress or victimize women; the failure to get a handle on the sexual exploitation of women and children.

Until western countries began extending the franchise to women, less than 100 years ago, the legal status of women in most western countries was the same as children, convicted felons, the insane, and the "mentally deficient."  Women were seen as all of those things simultaneously:  disabled by their possession of vaginas and uteri instead of penises and testes.  Prone to "hysteria"--a Greek word that means "womb sickness"--and mentally incapacitated because of our ovaries.  This presentation of women still exists today in many, many countries, where women's labor is essential to the health of the community but women themselves are considered expendable and valueless.  Heck, it exists here in the USA.

Isn't it time to turn the other 364 days into International Women's Day?

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