I did wear red.
Moreover, it’s handmade red. Coming soon to a blog post near you.
I made some small donations (Oxfam Canada, for their recent report card, and the Canadian Women’s Foundation). I wrote a few emails to politicians. I shopped at women-owned local businesses.
Not so much.
If I’m going to feed my daughter, I need to work. And there are no men in my life who can pick up the slack if I drop out of unpaid work for the day. I like to eat dinner–and my daughter also likes to eat dinner–every day, ideally; if that’s going to happen, I’m going to make it.
I considered asking the dog, as the only male in the house. He wagged his tail and barked. Was that a “yes”?
There was Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau’s inspiring call to social media inaction, in which I dutifully participated. It’s awfully selfish of us women to want to centre International Women’s Day on women, after all; and of course we all have a male ally to gaze at adoringly while holding hands.
This cruelly neglects all the male allies who so thoughtfully remind me that women in the middle east have real problems, and that, since I can vote and drive, I have nothing to complain about. I keep forgetting, somehow, that women–and only women–are supposed to be so fucking grateful for basic fucking suffrage that we don’t see, notice, point out, discuss, or try to change, anything else ever, especially if it makes men uncomfortable. The important thing, I try to remind myself, is that men don’t think we’re going too far or asking for too much or asking for it in the wrong tone of voice.
(Please don’t make me #notallmen this. It would be too depressing.)
Our main ally to the south seems determined to erase any progress that’s been made in women’s rights since 1923 and, as often happens with our main ally to the south, many American women have decided this translates to a new and global threat against all women. Outside of the global gag rule, though, not so much. The condition of women globally has not changed since January 2017. I get that you’re an empire and empires do tend to assume that they are the world, and that differences really only amount to local flavour, but actually: nope. Also, I hate to break it to you, but the idea that women globally pine for the rights and freedoms enjoyed by American women specifically and will take this new setback in their rights to heart because American women have reached a pinnacle of freedom we need to aspire to in order to motivate our own local struggles: also nope. We kind of feel sorry for you and have for a long time. The abortion thing, the health care thing, the maternity leave thing, the child care thing, the bible belt thing. Canada’s got lots of work to do and we’re going to do that work here, for ourselves. Thanks for understanding.
I feel for you. I’ll help you wherever I can. But I am not you.
I am angry.
I’m angry about the pay gap and rape culture and how long it’s taken for our country to take the plight of indigenous women seriously and I’m angry that the government has been dragging its heels on the abortion pill forever and that women in rural areas particularly on the east coast still have no access to abortion and I’m angry that at nearly 42 I’m still being harassed on the street by assholes who think women are public property. I’m angry that the feminine is still considered so inferior to the masculine that it is still, for kids at my daughter’s school in her generation, an insult for a boy to be called girly and a compliment for a girl to be called a tomboy. I’m angry that we are so incapable of seeing women as aggressors that abusive women can and do get away with abuse for decades and no one calls them on it; I’m angry that we still have to debate whether men are or are not more often the abusers; I’m angry that when men abuse women we still question why women didn’t leave instead of why men felt free to punch their partners in the face; I’m angry that almost every woman I know has been assaulted or sexually assaulted and only one of their assailants has faced any jail time and he was acquitted at trial; I’m angry that when an ex-boyfriend bragged to me that he bugged his ex-wife’s apartment so he could keep track of who she was fucking and I called the police they told me they couldn’t take a report because “no crime had taken place.”
And I’m angrier because my anger is considered the problem.
Listen: if you can read all that, and all the mountains of bullshit beside it, and not be angry–there is something wrong with you. If you find the anger off-putting, well, there’s the door.
Today, I’m mostly depressed that we as Canadians have become a shining beacon of human rights and equality, not because we’ve accomplished anything in the last 20 years, but because we’ve managed not to regress.
I have to believe that we are capable, as a society, of recognizing that women are people and acting accordingly. Not almost-people. Not people-here-but-not-people-there. Not people-if-they-do-what-I-prefer. Not people-if-they-wear-what-I-respect. Not people-who-are-responsible-for-my-feelings. No conditions. No caveats. Not people-with-a-preference-for-unpaid-emotional-labour-that-I-am-entitled-to. Not people-who-inexplicably-choose-to-be-paid-less-for-reasons-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-sexism. Not people-deserving-of-my-respect-but-only-if-they-smile. Definitely not walking-sex-puppets-who-shouldn’t-leave-home-if-they-don’t-want-my-unsolicited-opinion-on-their-boobs. Or people-who-should-feel-grateful-we-let-them-get-drivers’-licenses. Not people-if-they-act-a-bit-masculine-but-not-too-masculine-god-forbid.
Just people. Complicated, flawed, people–horrible, wonderful, angry, happy, smart, stupid, girly, manly, strong, weak, successful, struggling, maternal, childless, ambivalent, ambitious, contented, resentful, single, coupled, tripled, promiscuous, virginal, slovenly, controlling, relaxed, energetic, tired, depressed, joyous–all of it. The full range of human experience, without any bits chopped off to fit in someone’s frilly pink box. Actual full human people who are here on this earth to live their own lives whether or not it serves someone’s else’s agenda or expectations. People who are, and can, and are supported in, living for themselves.
I have to believe we’re capable of it. We’re not there yet. It’s hard to feel celebratory today–but I celebrate each and every woman, today, who refuses to be less than she is.
13 thoughts on “It’s International Women’s Day, and I don’t feel like celebrating”
Thank you! I share your anger. and I have hope as there are such stong, thoughful women as you making their way in the world.
Thank you for writing this, it needs to be shared!
Great essay. Newspaper worthy.
Thank you. 🙂
Great piece, Andrea. And yes, it should be shared broadly. Around these parts, the insult for middle school girls is raging feminist. I cannot believe that these middle school boys came up with that one on their own. It’s all rather disheartening.
It is disheartening. Frances's friends are pro-feminist, gender-questioning, thoughtful, pro-social-justice thinkers and talkers; and yet even there "girly" is tainted and "tomboy" is cool. We have so far to go.
Yeah, I’m angry too, even in Canada. I went to work yesterday feeling grumpy. All day I was inundated with pleas from corporate in Montreal to share women’s ‘success stories’ at the company on our internal social media site. Yet I work at in business unit where 12% of the management team are women, and not a single woman has worked her way up internally. The technical team I started on a decade ago had 5 men and 1 woman (me), and all of them have been promoted, leaving me behind.
Yet I had to listen to men all day joking about the silliness of women getting their own day. I had one guy seriously tell me that women shouldn’t strike because they wouldn’t spend the day productively, just watching Netflix or something.
After work I helped a friend who lives on a reserve pack up her house. The band and the local municipality have decided on a land swap, so she’s losing her home. All the other people (men or families with male ‘heads’) displaced have been assigned new housing. Not her. She’s moving with her kids in with another friend because she has no other choice. If she leaves the reserve and rents elsewhere, she loses her right to come back. Not officially of course.
Then I went home and had a drink.
Don’t you love it when companies want to use IWD as marketing material but treat women so terribly they haven’t got a single legitimate story to share?
That is so infuriating about your friend. Was there an excuse or reason given or just, “sorry, only dudes need houses”?
Amazing post and perfectly worded.