And What Day is International Men's Day?


As an American woman I wait for two special days each year: August 26, National Women's Equality Day celebrating the 19th Amendment, and March 8, International Women's Day. For me they are suspended emulsions like the ones we studied in science class -- liquids that never blend as I cannot resolve my joy of the celebrations and the unthinkable meagerness of 48 hours.

National Women's Equality Day is very new. Installed by a joint Congressional Order in 1971, championed by Rep. Bella Abzug, it directly commemorates the day -- August 26, 1920 -- the 19th Amendment was signed, giving women the right to vote. We can only imagine how Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Jeanette Rankin and Carrie Chapman Catt, or even President Wilson felt at that time. Reading their autobiographies it would seem they thought the world would change forever: wives disagreeing with their husbands, electing women, learning man's work and unlimited meddling.

International Women's Day began in 1911 as a result of industrial revolutions in Eastern Europe but became recognized worldwide in 1977 when the U.N. General Assembly made an official declaration. In some countries men give women gifts, and some non-profits use this day to draw attention to the many hardships women survive around the globe. Here in the U.S. it is printed on our wall calendars, and, for the most part, no one knows why. Interestingly some Harvard students have declared March 8 National Feminist Coming Out Day, using both the phrase "coming out" from the LGBT Movement and hoping to reclaim the pride of identifying one's self as a FEMINIST, a term now tarnished with time.

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These two days have many things in common besides women. Certainly they both are the result of civil protest. Eastern European socialists and American suffrage activists made significant interruptions, disturbances, marches and committed civil disobedience. But more importantly, even tragically, what they have in common is the unrealized dreams of their original architects.

American women have held 2% of the Congressional seats. The United States ranks #72 in women in leadership. It would appear that women often vote with their Church, their husbands, sometimes not at all and, even though more women are voting these days than ever before, the original dreams of the suffragists were so much more. All of it correctly forecast by Ms. Alice Paul which drew her to write the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, knowing that the 19th Amendment was not going to be enough to secure equality.

The circumstances of women globally is uniquely illustrated in the photos of the recent revolution in Cairo. For the first time we saw the faces of women in the streets. You never saw women's faces at the fall of Baghdad, leading me to think how they were in their homes trying to figure out how they would be able to feed their children or which of their few rights they might lose. However in Cairo it was entirely different. We saw women in western dress, in Muslim head scarves, in modern and traditional Egyptian clothes. We heard women interviewed and saw that women, just like the men, wanted Mubarak removed. This was new. This was liberating for women around the world to see -- women demonstrating side by side with men shaping their mutual future.

However, on Sunday the New York Times reported that not ONE woman has been invited to serve on the Constitution Committee in Egypt. Sixty-three women's groups are working for just one woman attorney to be allowed to be included. Many of the Egyptian feminists believe that a conservative religious leader may be elected and women may lose some of their very limited rights. In 2010, only 8 of the 454 Egyptian seats are held by women, ranking Egypt 90th, tied with Colombia in women in leadership.

Yes, today is International Women's Day. Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama will make a proclamation and, yet, what more shall we do, what more shall we do? (women perform 66% of the world's work, produce 50% of the food, but earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property)

Zoe Nicholson is an Orange County based Equality Activist. From civil rights, the ERA and LGBT, she has fasted, marched, organized and rallied for social justice all her life. On any given day you can hear her say, "I have been straight, gay, lesbian and bi; I have had an abortion and fasted for the ERA. I hang out at the intersection of feminism and equality. For me, there is no place else to be."

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user Takver. It was used under a Creative Commons License .

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