International Women’s Day is not a day that exists out of a need to celebrate femininity or any preconceived notions society may have impressed upon us as to what that entails.
International Women’s Day exists to remind us that there is a significant share of the population whose agency and personhood have historically been and continue to be undermined. That among us in our society are two kinds of people – those afforded full control over their own bodies, choices and opportunities, and those who have been systematically denied that control through cultural gender roles that have bombarded them from early childhood with endless messages, subliminal and explicit, of submissiveness and subordination.
We need International Women’s Day because the Israel Bar Association believes professional lawyers, who have fought and scraped alongside the rest of us to attain their positions, should be celebrated by being offered a seminar in which they are told how to dress to impress.
We need International Women’s Day because, when fundraising for women trapped by law in abusive marriages, the most common response I received from men was various forms of “but what about the men?”
We need International Women’s Day as long as our society fails to reckon with the self-evident truth that all people are created equal, and that no legislator, priest, employer or judge has a role to play in making a woman’s personal health decisions for her. We need International Women’s Day as long as body autonomy remains a political issue instead of an uncontested fact of life.
We need International Women’s Day as long as the family of an adult rapist can attend the cross-examination of his 13-year-old victim and scream at her “SLUT!”, and still be allowed to show their faces in public. We need International Women’s Day when the judge fails to render a verdict in a case of a 12-year-old raped in coronavirus isolation because there are “still questions to be answered surrounding the consent” of the raped child.
We need International Women’s Day when a man can publicly boast about serially molesting women and still merit the trust and the votes of 74 million people. We need International Women’s Day when such behavior continues to be seen by society as admirable and masculine, rather than abhorrent and sociopathic.
We need International Women’s Day when the US can intern women in camps and perform forced sterilization operations without inviting a public outcry and international condemnation.
No, it’s not a day for celebration. Perhaps one day, this will be the day we look back and celebrate our successes in righting these wrongs, in achieving true gender parity in our society. Until then, it stands as a reminder of how much work remains to be done.