Mar 10

It can never happen in the real world.

Women do it all, with seemingly more arms and legs and eyes and heart than the human body visibly reveals, more depth and emotion and intellect and drive and seems humanly possible. ‘That’s no brag, just fact’ goes a longtime folk saying. In fact, women not only don’t tend to brag, they don’t tend to realize the enormity of their value to the world and the individuals in their one on one relationships they have as daughters, sisters, friends, wives, mothers.

So when International Women’s Day came around on March 8th, planners of the largest, most publicized event in the US to mark the occasion made it a strike, to protest oppression, inequality, ‘reproductive rights’, defunding of Planned Parenthood, Donald Trump. Instead of being a day to celebrate and stand proudly for something, those organizers made it a protest against many things and people. They missed a big opportunity. And a lot of points about what really helps women and doesn’t hurt, or eliminate, them.

Here’s how it appeared to a lot of Americans otherwise occupied with daily work and concerns, women ‘going on strike to highlight their clout’. It was a strike carried out on social media to show the lengths to which they would go to spread their message. ”Many of our national organizers have been arrested in an act of civil disobedience. We will not be silent.”

Who was trying to silence them? What did they stand for instead of against? What is ‘reproductive justice’? Who was minding the children while moms were taking ‘a day off’ of work and shopping and home life, to be out in the streets? Were there no women manning Planned Parenthood clinics, or did they find that work too necessary for women’t ‘empowerment’? What did they say about the school districts that cancelled classes for lack of teachers, causing working single moms to scramble for childcare? Where did the lower income children who relied on school meals for their nutrition go when their schools closed because of the strike?

Are we more enlightened and encouraged now, or less? Since there’s a day set aside for the global recognition of the unique role and contribution of women in history, culture and society, how can we make the most and the best of that opportunity? The initiative raised more questions than it answered.

But some women have considered and answered these and other questions, and did us all a favor by their reflections.

Like Margot Cleveland’s Federalist piece about the millions of women the world would do without, not for a day but forever, because of enabling ideologies instead of protecting women.

And Pia de Solenni’s Crux piece about proudly being at work that day, representing the finest in women’s achievements and nobly holding to her responsibilities to serve an important role.

The contrast between the trailblazing women mathematicians chronicled in [the film] Hidden Figures and the women leading [Wednesday's] protest, A Day Without Women, leaves me stunned. For generations, even centuries, women have sought equality in all aspects of life. Women in the U.S., where the present protest originates, enjoy rights and opportunities of which women in many parts of the world can scarcely dream.

It seems paradoxical, not to mention confusing, that women would absent themselves from paid work when it’s only recently in human history that so many of us can enjoy these opportunities.

Furthermore, she continues

As women, we have specific responsibilities whatever our states in life. Now we’re being asked to cast them aside, no matter how hard we’ve fought for them.

This sends a conflicting message. The organizers of this protest are saying to the world that women can’t be counted upon. They’re telling our male colleagues (paid and unpaid) that women won’t have their backs on this one day. In many ways, they’re reinforcing what I had hoped were unfair stereotypes.

I can’t even begin to imagine the women mathematicians from Hidden Figures deciding to stay home. They worked hard and made many sacrifices. In fact, they saw themselves advancing the cause of black Americans by showing up and doing work that most Americans, regardless of skin color or sex, couldn’t do. Not showing up for the job wasn’t part of the equation.

There’s more to this protest. For some, it’s a way to signal grievances against the current U.S. President, even though women voted for him. For others, it’s a slightly veiled demonstration to support abortion. All of these women have the right to express themselves and to protest.

But they don’t represent all women, and that’s the challenge for any women’s movement. It has to be diverse enough to include most women. That’s where this protest fails miserably.

Exactly. I’m a proud member of Women Speak for Themselves because of their intellectual honesty, their breadth and depth, their reach and grasp, their efforts to build up a grassroots movement of women across America who will be informed and get engaged at the local level to help communities find and build on resources to serve women, children, families and the social fabric that holds us together. It’s a group that says it’s not “pro-woman” to model outfits and images that reduce women to their bodies and think that’s a good idea. And says ‘No Melinda Gates, it’s not pro-woman to put contraception at the center of a woman’s agenda; its health effects on women and its broader harms to male-female relations and the sexual marketplace are too well-documented.’

This letter from a mother to her daughters, sincere and personal, bespeaks the ‘feminine genius’ John Paul II so eloquently wrote of, encouraging women to embrace a new feminism.

Being fully present, by listening, feeling, empathizing—always holding serious eye contact, and often the touch of a hand—builds trust. Trust builds confidence and confidence enables you to look forward, dream more and focus on others vs. yourself. Being present is the greatest gift you can give another person, and the greatest way to more closely connect with them. When you are present, you are living in the moment vs in your mind. You are seeing, hearing, and feeling another person, and together you are even more empowered to do great things. This is a gift that often comes more naturally to women.

This is true, and it is beautiful.

On International Women’s Day, I attended an event that brought together a wide cross-section of women and men of diverse demographics, backgrounds, age and experience, and I learned so much from the encounters there, brief as those couple of hours were, before heading back to my office and studio for a live radio show, half of which focused on comprehensive health care for women and their families, the health risks of birth control, and fertility awareness and how federal dollars could best serve women in community health centers.

At the event, one of the Little Sisters of the Poor engaged me in conversation, with the joy each and all of them embody, talking about the work they do to care for the elderly, sick and dying patients they love and enjoy serving. These are women who don’t want to, or have the luxury to, take a day off. Taking ‘a day without a woman’ and leaving their patients and residents without a Sister to care for them is unimaginable.

Women are never ‘off’, and are at their happiest with those they love and serve and share a relationship with, whether in family or social circle. The mother’s letter to her daughters urged this:

You are fully aware of how blessed you are, the incredible gifts you were born with that your brother doesn’t have and the gifts he has that you don’t possess. You know how happy you feel when you are doing what you love and that comes so easily and naturally to you.

Feminism and femininity go together when rightly ordered and embraced. There really is a complementarity of the sexes, this mother is helping her daughters understand the natural beauty of that phenomenon. And ultimately, “your family is your foundation, and also your greatest enabler. When it comes to your family, we should be with you everywhere you are, as you are always and forever with us.”

That mother embodies the feminine genius. And she does her daughters, and her son, a great, lifelong, never-ending service by imbuing them with such wisdom that transcends the ages.

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