March is all about the womenfolk. Once again, by Presidential proclamation, the entire month is dedicated to Women’s History (which began as a week-long ceremony in 1981). And Thursday is International Woman’s Day (IWD), 101 years old and still going strong.
For whatever reasons, IWD has a pretty low profile in the United States. It’s not an official public holiday, as it is in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Vietnam. We don’t celebrate by giving women flowers or gifts, as apparently is the custom in places like Poland and Italy.
Maybe that will change this year? Because I don’t know about you but I feel like we’re in the midst of some exceptionally strange days for women.
On the one hand we’re apparently so far ahead on certain economic and educational indicators that some have declared an end to both men and married women, although by “some” I mainly mean The Atlantic, which along with The New York Times has a tendency to smell seismic social shifts in even the slightest whiff of a cultural trend – call it human interest reporting on ’roids.
If work has provided women with a cure for some of the ills of gender inequality that would vindicate the logic that drove the Socialist Party of America in 1909 to first call for a National Woman’s Day – to honor women protesting the conditions of their work.
But work hasn't been a cure-all by any means. And many of the issues that animated socialists and other agitators back in the day are back, in full force. A protracted fight over contraception and reproductive rights has turned into one of the more significant and uglier fault lines of our current political scene, one which may have women rejecting candidates on both sides of the political aisle faster than they apparently do marriage proposals.
And now enter that notorious female figure, the "slut," who was actually invited to testify before a Congressional committee. Well, at least according to Rush Limbaugh, who reliably makes headlines for insulting – and now apologizing (sort of) – to women.
Rush's terminology might be incendiary, but it wouldn't light a fire if sluts weren't already at play in popular culture. Over the past year, self-identified sluts around the world took to the streets to protest antiquated ideas about female attire and behavior. And it's not just men – women too make casual use of the term. In fact pop culture that doesn't resort to “slut-shaming” is considered refreshing.
Call it talking about or policing women, we are the conversation, for better or for worse. But we also have the power to change the topic. You can celebrate at this Thursday's International Women's Day Fair and Luncheon, which features a power-house line-up of female talent (full disclosure - I'm hosting the event). Or in keeping with the theme of this year's IWD check out some of the documentaries about awesome girls and women in The Independent Television Series' online film festival. Or get female issues in the mix at a community conversation on education, convened by WBEZ. Come on ladies, let's rock it!