On this International Women’s Day, let us celebrate our strengths and be mindful of our shortcomings. Women have been publicly asserting their right to gender equality and contesting men’s self-acclaimed right to rule over women since the 1700s.
Gender equality is not just about economic returns or political power. Nor is about bringing social “order” to the world. It’s about curing a foundational deformity in human relations that is used by both men and women to wield power over women by advancing male originality and normality as the yardstick against which others are to be measured.
Let us remember
Gender equality is about having the right to make your own choices in freedom. Undoubtedly, there are many women who may not yet be ready for the freedom that gender equality brings. Choosing on your own for yourself can be scary. So it is not uncommon for privileged women (favored and financially secure) to presume to think for, dictate to or take for granted that they know better what suits other women, while they fail to know it for themselves.
Let us remember the women, all the women, whose rage and frustration in the face of political, financial and social impotence have been on the front lines of the fight to secure equality and freedom. Let us remember, as historian Ibram X. Kendi highlights in his book Stamped from the Beginning (2016), that one of the first sparks for this fight in America was lit by Phillis Wheatley, the naked little black girl from Senegambia bought by Susanna Wheatley, the wife of Boston tailor and financier John Wheatly, as a domestic servant. By the age of 12, Phillis had no problem reading Latin and Greek, and she became a renown poet following the publication of her first poem in 1767. Let us also remember suffragist and abolitionist Frances Dana Gage, one of the first white American women to call for voting rights for all citizens, regardless of gender or race.
Let us recognize and acknowledge
The mission of gender equality is not to “uplift” those we erroneously consider “inferior” or “disadvantaged” to an equality with women of privilege. So let us also stop robbing each other of our freedom to choose who we want to be. Let us recognize and acknowledge other women’s merited successes, regardless of origin, race, age, or economic status.
As Tarana Burke wrote in a March 7, 2020 Letter to the Editor of The Washington Post, the #MeToo Movement did not originate in 2017, as Monica Hesse wrote in her February 25, 2020 Style Column, with the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein. It began in 2006, with Tara Burke, an African American civil rights activist. So let us stop attributing to men or women of our own race or background critical parts of history.
Let us continue writing on the continuous wall of history without judging other women by their cover. There is no place for women to walk into anywhere with the air of a queen. But just because a woman dresses elegantly and carries herself well does not mean that she takes herself for a queen. Let us welcome and applaud all those women who have emancipated their minds to, borrowing from the title of Nic Cober’s book, become the CEOs of their own souls.
Let us be proud and dump the excuses
Let us be proud of all the women who don’t want to settle in the light of others or for less than they deserve. Freedom in equality is having the power to create your own choices while loving who you are. So stop living in fear of not being enough or of not being whom others think you should. Be proud of who you are.
Let’s dump the excuses and stop sabotaging ourselves. Let’s shake off those limiting “shoulds” and “can’ts”, that negative self-talk and the need to control everything. Life happens! So let us use this International Women’s Day to look back and view ahead. Let’s assess the obstacles to achieving gender equality and the freedom to choose, and let’s reframe the links between thoughts, words and actions to forge a powerful path to empower ourselves and others. No woman can become another woman’s savior, but she can empower herself and others to realize her own and others’ potential to be the best that they can be.
Let us be the change
Today is the day to start being the change by making practice perfect. So create your Blueprint for Change now (adapted from Dr. Judy Ho’s Blueprint for Change, in Stop Self-Sabotage, 2019):
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