Today is International Women’s Day.
I welcome the day when we don’t need a day to remind all humanity of our right to equality, equal rights, equal pay, equal justice, not just women but every human on this planet regardless of race, gender, socio/economic status.
I welcome the day when glass ceilings do not need to be broken. Glass ceilings don’t exist.
I welcome the day when girls’ bodies are not mutilated, when education is not denied, when child-marriages are decried and girls are not afraid to speak their minds and pursue their dreams.
I welcome the day when females of all ages can walk the streets without the curse of catcalls polluting the air around them. When a late-night walk alone is not accompanied by the fear of rape because some men believe it is their right to do what they want, how they want, when they want with the female body.
And I welcome the day when the feminine body is no longer used as a weapon of war. A weapon called rape; a tool strategically deployed to destroy entire cultures, to enforce social control, to terrorize women and children whose only crime was to be trapped by advancing forces of conflict as they tried to flee the battleground of wars killing the very children women gave birth to.
And I welcome the day when the things women do to give life, support life, nurture life and safeguard the future of families, communities and all of humanity are not cast off as secondary to ‘men’s work’. A day when ‘women’s work’ is no longer denigrated but recognized and celebrated as necessary and as vital as breathing for every single human on this planet.
A few years ago, my eldest daughter and I had a conversation about women’s issues after she was cat-called as she walked down the street.
So much of that behaviour, I told her, stems from an ancient belief codified in histories written by men. A collective history that deems men worthier than women. Even the Bible begins with God as a male deity sitting at the head of the all-male Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son and (in my childhood lingo of the Catholic church) The Holy Ghost. Where was the Mother of God? Wouldn’t She have had an integral role to play in the formation of life?
That idea of being worthier than woman impregnates much of our collective consciousness around women’s rights and the right, which some men believe they possess, to treat women as objects.
And while, in speaking with my daughter, I didn’t actually say, I blame ‘the church’, my feminist soul struggles to understand how 60,000 people (mostly women) could be burned at the stake in the name of God or that in the Catholic church, women continue to be deemed unworthy of direct communion with God through the priesthood. Yet, in the US, even though Olympia Brown became the first woman to be ordained, with national approval, as a minister in 1863, around the world today, women continue to fight for the right to be deemed ‘priest-worthy’ in many denominations.
And I wonder… Which part of women’s history does the Catholic Church celebrate? The one where women were burned at the stake? Where they are still not able to break through the papal decree sheltering men on God’s side of the confessional booth keeping women on their knees before God their father? The one where the virgin womb is still a prerequisite of the marriage bed and where millions of women and girls are denied the right to contraception? Or the one where, as long as women stay in their place, the church will allow them to be celebrated as equal members of all God’s children?
Sure, we’ve come a long way, baby, but there is still so far to go to ensure every human being on this planet is treated as precious as the miracle of life that gives us life through a woman’s womb, whether virgin or not.
Until then, I shall stand with all my sisters, and those brothers who stand with us, as we call out in one voice for equality, justice, dignity and respect for every life on this planet we call our home.
I wrote the poem below after that conversation in 2016 with my daughter. I share it again today. There is still so far to go.