More than 100 years ago, the world saw its first celebration of International Women's Day. Its roots are radical: Women took to the streets to protest for better pay, voting rights, and an end to war. And then in the late 1900s/early 2000s, the day nearly disappeared.
The urgency of the work was no longer palpable. Women had won the right to vote. They went to school and obtained degrees. They worked outside of the home. They could own homes and open their own bank accounts. With their newly found financial freedom, they bought power suits and climbed the corporate ladder.
But the air was thin and they hit a glass ceiling. Equal pay never materialized. Affordable and equitable access to healthcare continued to be out of reach. Men still held political power, dictating policy that aligned with their worldview.
All the while, the women representing the global majority continued to be left behind as we simultaneously witnessed the advances we've celebrated being challenged and eroded, from access to healthcare to LGBTQIA+ rights to voting rights. We know the people who will be most significantly and irrevocably impacted are women with the fewest resources: poor women, women of color, women living under the threat of violence, women experiencing the impacts of climate change, women whose bodies are used as tools of war, outspoken women, queer women, trans women.
As a white, middle-class, educated woman born in the United States, I am deeply aware of my privilege. The feminist movement served me, minimizing the gap between my lived reality and that of men. That is why taking action not just today but every day on this year's IWD theme, Embrace Equity, is part of my daily work. I read, I listen, I research, I speak, I act.
If you hold similar privileges, I encourage you to spend this day thinking about whether your values align with your actions. All too often, we feel the right things, but we stop short of acting on them because we are afraid of how others will perceive us, of upsetting people, of losing things. But we will only achieve equity if we move beyond allyship and into being co-conspirators.*
Say the tough things. Take the hit. Hold others accountable. Move through the world from a place of kindness rather than niceness. That's what the women of the world so desperately need.
* This is something Rosalie Fish spoke to at the No Man’s Land Film Festival.