International Women’s Day. A day that we celebrate, a day that is still yet to receive significant exposure. Today we think about how far we’ve come, about what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality, parity, and how we can further this agenda of women’s rights. I won’t go into the sociopolitical issues at hand, because this blog remains a personal one, but I do want to bring up a few ideas that crossed my mind.
Around me, there are beautiful, brave, strong women to celebrate. There are fighters, there are mothers, daughters, students, friends, colleagues- you name it. Each one is fighting a battle of her own. And perhaps it’s important to mention that Feminism is NOT a hatred of men, it is not us against them. At a gender parity forum today, a couple of academics and myself raised the fact that women can be hostile – they can wage wars among themselves. There is a division even between women, according to religion, social class, sect, economic position, etc.
In class the other day, I asked my students to work in pairs. I trusted that they would choose their partners efficiently, and that there would be no issues. By the time I looked up from my book, I asked if everyone had a partner. Everyone nodded and voiced “Yes.” Except for one girl. One girl who remains invisible to the rest. I’ll call her Britney, for anonymity’s sake. Britney has a mental disability, as well as a physical one. She is slightly slower than the rest, but works very hard to keep up. In fact, she tends to be the only one who reads the text before class. And yet, Britney is isolated, not spoken to. My students are adults, and yet I was suddenly reminded of how mean kids tend to be. Being picked last for the soccer team, or not being picked at all. I was reminded of how I have felt left behind way too many times in school. The utter humiliation she felt while she raised her hand to say “Me. I don’t have a partner” came crushing onto me. Some girls, unfortunately, giggled in the background. I don’t understand it and will not attempt to unravel this behavior. My reaction was: “Great. Then I’ll be your partner, Britney.” She beamed with pride. One student laughed and complained that that wasn’t “fair.” I simply shrugged it off.
What’s not fair is the way our society insists on divisions, separations. On sexism AND ableism. What’s not fair is how we want to empower women, but continue to disempower those who are at a disadvantage in one way or another. So my pledge for today, my gender parity pledge is to continue to support those that need a helping hand. I believe it is a cycle. I was supported by wonderful and kind academics when I was an undergraduate, and today, I aim to do the same, to pay it forward.
So happy women’s day, but also – here’s to doing better.