International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for advancing gender parity. Significant energy is felt worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements and/or rally for women’s equality.
As a female who is a self-proclaimed “label-hater,” it is baffling to me that we still, in the year 2021, have a designated day to rally for equality. Whether the discussion is gender, race, class—pick a box, category or, more to the point, social confine—with the innumerable advancements made throughout the course of history in science, healthcare, and technology, why has not the most basic “advancement” been made: that of human equality?
That question is not to disregard history. It is not to discount a person’s story, experiences, and deep generational roots. Rather, that we are still asking the question is really the question itself.
I grew up in the 1980’s in a rural, impoverished, all-white community. The population was under 3,000, a village. Yet to me, in my young and isolated world, the world at large held endless possibilities. Not only did I believe there was more to do and see, ponder and discuss, try and change—I also believed I could to it myself! As a girl!
That seemed like a better question to be asking, albeit a naïve one, as I would soon find out.
“What do you mean, I can’t try out for the football team?” I asked the boy’s high school coach.
“Girls don’t play football,” he said.
“I just threw a forty-yard rocket and nailed your running back in the chest for a touchdown,” I said under my breath, as I ran back out to the track while the boys finished their practice.
My question was innocuous. I truly did not understand why, if the point was to win the game for the school team, I was unable to be a part of the team. To help the collective. To pursue victory. To use my skills. To belong to something greater than myself, which I had no part in creating, but felt instant shame for being.
After a night of sullenness, I marched into the Athletic Director’s office the next day to challenge the rules of football. He laughed. I cried.
Life went on. That was 1986.
Today, we recognize that a challenged world is an enlightened world. When an injustice is seen, heard, or otherwise known—we must challenge. No longer is complacency or indifference tolerable. We’ve come too far. Hurt too much. Thrown tight spirals too many times.
Perhaps I came to abhor labels from being called a “feminist” throughout the years, a word which, mind you, only ever signified equality to me. Therein lies the rub. If the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes conjures a negative connotation, what’s a girl to do?
Again and again and again until we are heard. The good news is, it’s 2021 and people are listening. The progress is palpable, but we must continue to lace up and finish the race. Our daughters and their daughters are counting on us. Our friends and coworkers are counting on us. Sarah Thomas, the first woman to officiate in an NFL Super Bowl, is counting on us:
“I do know there are still industries that are not on an equal playing field with women. My thing is, don’t let that keep you from continuing to do what you know that you have to do. Don’t look at it as an excuse, look at it as an opportunity.”
Each day is an opportunity to show up. Women are the backbone of society. Of marriages, partnerships, and motherhood. Of teams and corporations, frontlines and bylines. We were never meant to be seen and not heard.
Choose to see and call out gender bias and inequality. Choose to celebrate women’s achievements. Choose to be a courageous, curious and inspirational individual. Because collectively, we can help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change. #choose to challenge.