Thoughts on International Women’s Day

It’s 11:18pm in my timezone as I write this and I’m reflecting on International Women’s Day. I feel kind of anxious and twitchy and unhappy, and I’m trying to unpick why.

This morning one of the first things that greeted me, as I sat in bed skimming my Dreamwidth reading page, was this video of Ethyl Smyth‘s March of the Women, illustrated with pictures of women suffragists who fought for votes — and a wide range of human rights — for women.

Next year marks 100 years since the composition of that song. These are women of my great-grandmother’s generation marching, fighting, protesting, being arrested, and being imprisoned for basic human rights. I should be inspired, and yet I feel frustrated and exhausted.

How is it that we are still dealing with this shit?

(And because I am cranky, I am going to set an arbitrary rule on comments: if you post a comment with “but here’s an awesome feminist thing to be happy about!” you must also post a “but this fucking sucks” link as well. And vice versa.)

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on International Women’s Day

  1. Melissa

    I opened up my feeds this morning and came across Cory Doctorow’s salute to his Mother. Whilst cute (look at Cory as a baby, tehehe!) it did indeed make me wonder how that whole movement existed way back then, but we still get fucked up shit like the Utah Miscarriage law now, in 2010.

    It really does beggar belief that we’re still having these conversations 40 (that’s four freaking decades already) later. Just… ugh.

  2. Laughingrat

    All these “women’s day” type things get under my skin. Paula Poundstone once said something like, “THE year of THE woman? What privileged white guy thought that one up?” That pretty much sums up my feelings on the whole thing.

    Melissa, above, said that it beggars belief that we’re having these conversations still; you (Skud) said it’s unbelievable that we’re still dealing with this shit. I think the two are connected–we’re NOT having as many conversations about women’s rights as we used to, culturally; there’s a lot of mechanisms in place to keep us shut-up about it. I’m grateful that any of us are having these conversations at all, because most of us aren’t, and that’s part of why we’re still dealing with this crap.

    1. Melissa

      The point is that these conversations are still necessary, period.

      I’m grateful we can have these conversations, really I am.

      I do however resent with all my being that we still NEED to be discussing this stuff in spite of so much that has gone before us. Especially when shit like the miscarriage bill is undoing the past century of effort.

      1. Laughingrat

        Hi Melissa. It’s possible you misinterpreted my comment, since you sort of restated what I meant to say, but as if it was disagreeing with my own words. I’m sorry for not having been clearer before.

        1. Melissa

          Apologies for misunderstanding you.

          However I do still feel really quite squeamish about talking about these conversations as a privilege. I recognise that the ability to have these conversation are a symptom of class and educational privilege, but I really cannot convince myself to think of a tedious century-old battle as a privilege in its own right.

  3. lsblakk

    The biggest news that trickled down to me yesterday (relating to IWD) was that Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win Best Director. I grew up with a lesbian feminist mother and as a child I attended Take Back the Night, IWD, and pro-choice rallies/marches in the capital of Canada where we were loud and proud to be women, fighting for equality. It’s indeed sucky that what we did then doesn’t seem to have impacted today at all. Abortion doctors are getting shot, clinics closed, and the streets are definitely not safer for women.

    I am sad that to no longer have as many opportunities (nor the drive, honestly) to go around yelling in the streets about what I believe in. Facebook status updates, twitter, blogs…what kind of struggle am I participating in now? It feels so diffused, weakened in some ways (though so networked in ways that are amazing), and generally apathetic. It’s like feminism has become about expressing my frustration in funny anecdotes or interesting links. That’s not going to change anything either.

    It sucks. Some days I feel proud of how I spend my time, my money, my energy, trying to be the change I want to see in the world. Yesterday, all I wanted was to be able to celebrate the day (mostly out of nostalgia) and yet somehow and there was nothing I could find worth celebrating.

  4. Kate DuBois

    We will struggle as long as we talk about struggling more than we struggle to act. I understand your frustration and I feel it within myself. AND…each step we take to acknowledge the stuff we are still frustrated about while holding each other’s hands and walking our daughters and granddaughters into the vision we know is possible for them, is progress.

    Be heartened. You have a strong voice and you are speaking out for those who can’t. You are a leader. Rising to your calling and speaking out is a blessing for all of us.

    I recently read a book by Rosemary Trible that I think will give you perspective and hope. It’s titled Fear to Freedom. Rosemary’s story – from being raped in her early 20’s to finding her faith and using it to guide the international life she leads today of helping women around the world who are victims of the sex trade and all other sexual violence is a reminder of how far we’ve come, and yes, we still have, as Carl Sandburg wrote, miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep. But we’re walking. Together. Forward.

  5. Cait Hurley


    I’ve been thinking alot recently, and tbh I tend to think about this a lot. not IWD itself, but the nature of identiftying oneself as a Feminist. A while back, in comments discussion on the newspaper site for The Guardian in the UK, I was criticised for broadening the discussion beyond the boundaries of the western experience of being a woman. Then, a wee while back, I read the brilliant, if sporadic blog of a young journalist, Ruth Owen, out in the field in Afghanistan. Check out the piece called “Affection sponges”.

    Now I’m going to make huge sweeping generalisations, so apologies but this is in the nature of a rowsing statement to get us all going. If I think back through human history to the very beginning of everything, young women would have been in real danger from what, around the age of 9, or 10? Younger? Ruth Owen’s “men at the zoo who leered over even the nine-year-olds” would have been using and abusing women instead of merely leering when we were a more rudimentary species. And indeed, women – childbearers, would be sold & exchanged for animals; whether sex was consenting was an irrelevance and women not so much living in a state of constant fear, but dulled by the every-dayness of that fear in to accepting it as the norm. I’m talking here about our era as basic hunter gatherers. Not even farmers.

    …and it’s still damn well happening. In the UK, women are *bought* in India and brought over to live a life of forced sex and slavery. Women are slaughtered *in the UK* because they have fallen in love with someone not sanctioned by the family. Being sacked or discriminated against when pregnant pales into insignificance when we see the fate of our sisters on a global stage. Women who are threatened with stoning for adultery after having been gang raped. Women who are shot in the street because they tried to divorce their husbands. Women who are subjected for countless years to rape within marriage because it is *illegal* to refuse. Women who are imprisoned after rape, sometimes with the children born of those ‘unions’ being brought up in prison with them!

    I don’t really need to spell this out, do I, but I will in any case. Women, on a global level, are used, ‘owned’ and raped as standard, everyday behaviour. This has been a standard view, all over the world: that women are owned and abused, for millenia. It is ridiculous of us to somehow imagine that 150 years of visible fighting back can turn the ship around. Yes, there are still problems in western environments but bloody hell, we really need to look up from our computer screens.

    If International Women’s Day is part of that continued fight,then it is encumbent on all of us to use it, to spread the international message. The international abuse of women is intolerable, and must be fought against by all of us, on behalf of all our sisters who can’t fight back.

    So don’t malign it! Use it!

    I think I’ve been watching too many political speeches of late ;)

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