Happy Belated International Women's Day

by Amaury Nora

Happy Belated International Women’s Day!!!

We should take this moment to reflect and recognize the importance of this day for women worldwide. Yesterday, women around the world celebrated the achievements they have made in their struggle for power and recognition that’s been waged for hundreds of years. In South America, we witnessed a change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. In Argentina, the people spoke and elected Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, making her the first woman to be elected president in Argentina’s history. In 2006, in Chile, Michelle Bachelet became the first woman president. And Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made history by becoming Africa’s first elected female head of state and Liberia’s first elected female president. Fernández de Kirchner, Bachelet, Johnson Sirleaf and millions of women like them in many parts of the world have begun celebrating a new song of power, liberty, and justice.

However, the harsh realities in the day-to-day struggles women face can never be minimized. Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide. It continues to be a global epidemic that kills, tortures, and maims – physically, psychologically, sexually and economically. In Pakistan, the year ended with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The death of “The Rose of Pakistan” marked a dark day in Pakistan’s history.

Recently, it was reported that a young mother in London was drugged, repeatedly raped for hours in front of her screaming children. The horrible ordeal was later posted on YouTube for the world to see. The three-minute clip was later removed from YouTube after a local reporter complained about its graphic nature. And we must not forget Megan Meier, the 13 year-old girl who hung herself last year after being bullied on MySpace.

I had a hard time writing this post because I wanted to do the subject justice. I wanted to express how grateful I am not only to my mother and my sister, but also to all of the women who have touched my life personally and professionally. As I was looking up the links I wanted to use, I happened to come across this power picture on a post about International Women’s Day, by Adil Najam from All Things Pakistan. She was moved by the photo because “[t]here is both dignity and determination in the posture of this young woman as she tries to cross the road.” I couldn’t agree more!

Reading his post gave me pause to reflect on current state of affairs in this country and how sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving can still seen in the prevailing values in our society, values created and sustained by a system dominated by patriarchy. Najam wrote:

For me, here is a woman who is not waiting for someone to ‘help’ her cross the road. She is not demanding any special treatment. Not waiting for assistance. Not invoking the chuvinism of the men around her. She is ready, prepared, even eager, to overcome whatever hurdles come in her way.

There are some who doubt we can move toward a society that’s color-blind, rational, and humanist, where a common goodwill overpowers narrow self-interest. As some move forward for a better future, others choose to live in the past. The truth is, the only way we can realize the fully humanist goal is to have the willingness to listen and the determination to bring down the current power structure.

I was reminded of a passage from Paolo Friere’s classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

The oppressor is in solidarity with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor – when he stops making pious, sentimental, and individualistic gestures and risks an act of love. True solidarity is found only in the plenitude of this act of love… To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.

Such “acts of love” are possible. Being Latino, not only do I have an insight into identifying racist behavior taking place within the Latina/o community, but I’m also able to identify the subtle sexist behavior that also takes place because, as a male, I understand the male privilege that has been given to me by society’s patriarchal rules. Although there are some who assume that not being involved in the oppression of women is enough, but the reality is this is nothing more than passivity. As bell hooks once said, “if we don’t change our own consciousness, we cannot change our own actions or demand change from others.”

We can argue with or agree with the old Virginia Slims ad from 1978: “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Unfortunately, there are still miles to go before we arrive at true equality.

Happy International Womens Day.