This One’s For…

…everyone who doesn’t understand why today is International Women’s Day.

This one’s for you, individuals who want to know why women get a day.  A day, during the US’s Women’s History Month (which, I promise, will start receiving coverage here soon), to recognize that around the world, women disproportionately live in poverty, die too young, do not complete school, are forced into marriages with older individuals, are targeted for personal violence, and are disenfranchised from their political systems.  We get a day to recognize all that’s wrong and all the things being done to help make it right-~-a day.

…the teenage girls who give birth to 11% of all new babies worldwide each year, often at great personal cost. These girls-~-maybe the oldest could be called women-~-account for 23% of the overall burden of disease (disability- adjusted life years) due to pregnancy and childbirth.  But countries like the United States continue to fund abstinence-only education, or leave vital development work to missionary organizations that admittedly do great things, but which often do not provide the sex education these girls need.  Our next Republican president will likely reinstate the global gag rule, which will further exacerbate this problem.

If we want to help women around the world, this is one of the places where we need to start.

I’m not just here to remind you how bad things are, though; I want to take a moment to recognize that organizations like the UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation do fund, support or provide comprehensive sex and sexuality health education to young people in the developing world.  These are organizations that need more support to continue to do what they do, providing meaningful access not just to education but to contraception, condoms, and other tools to make and execute informed health decisions.

…all the grandmothers (and grandfathers) who have taken over raising children in the developing world, as well as here at home.

In the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, parts of the developing world-~-especially parts of sub-Saharan Africa-~-have seen shifts in family structures as AIDS orphans are increasingly raised by their grandparents.  Organizations like Nyumbani Village, in Kenya, have brought together groups of older individuals to help raise AIDS orphans in a culturally sensitive and nurturing environment, when they have no parents to take on these child-rearing roles.  And in South Africa, Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA), was born out of a support group for grandmothers who had taken over these parenting responsibilities as a result of HIV/AIDS; the group now works to train new activists, create projects for poverty alleviation, and provide support and education for grandmothers who are working to take care of their grandchildren and better their communities.

But it’s not just AIDS in Africa; a quick perusal of social science literature reveals that in the United States, more and more grandparents are taking over the care of their grandchildren, primarily in African-American households that have been impacted by crack-cocaine usage.  It’s worth recognizing the important work that these individuals are performing, because it often goes under-appreciated and often unseen.

…all the women who have been working to raise children, period.

source: HuffingtonPost

The reality is that whether a woman works in the labor force or not, women do disproportionately more of the household and childcare labor at home than their male counterparts, virtually everywhere in the world.  The result is that women end up providing something like an additional two months of labor at home, all while being paid comparatively less than men in the workplace.  This means that these women are making a disproportionately large contribution to the social good, providing for children, taking on medical, educational, and other socially util roles in their homes, and then acting as both producers and consumers in the marketplace.

So this post is absolutely for all the women who do the very important work of raising the next generation, whether they do so professionally or just because this is their parental or grandparental responsibility; this is for all the women who do the very important work of raising children but are punished for it via their careers, their lack of free time, their mental health, or any other avenue.  Women are disproportionately impacted by the introduction of children into their homes, but many continue to have children, and to shoulder this additional burden, and that’s absolutely worth mentioning on International Women’s Day.

…all the women who choose not to have children at all.

I feel like it may look like I just threw women who don’t have or don’t want children under the bus, and so I want to be clear: women who make the choice not to have children (as well as women who simply can’t), still get a big thumbs up from me.  It takes gumption and resolve to reject a narrative of womenhood that is centered around motherhood and which is shoved down our throats from an early age. From playing house to playing with baby dolls, young girls are taught that their goal in live is to become wives and mothers.  And to all the women who will never do either of those things, I say, good for you, if that’s what you want.  Rejecting a socially constructed and socially limiting idea of what it means to be a woman is still a great thing, and I genuinely salute you.

And not to end on a low note but…

…this post is for all the women who have died for being who they are.

This post is for all the women who were injured, raped, or killed for rejecting a man’s advances, in the United States and around the world.  Consent is a basic human right, and we as a society-~-we as a world-~-do not do nearly enough to uphold it, or to protect those who attempt to exercise it.  You have a right to say no and not be killed, and we have failed to teach this to those who would hurt you.   Women deserve better, and the world is failing us.

This post is also for all the women who died just to be women.  Trans women, and especially trans women of color, are disproportionately subject to violence, and while I have little data outside the United States at the moment, I imagine that given how things look here, things cannot be going well elsewhere either.  Their deaths this year thus far have included Penny Proud (21), Lamia Beard (30), Ty Underwood (24), Yazmine Vash Payne (33), Taja DeJesus (36),  as well as Bri Golec (26) and Kristina Gomez Reinwald (46).  It isn’t just murders, though; the suicide rate among trans youth in the United States greatly exceeds that of the overall country, a result of how we as a society have come to treat trans individuals when they come out.

Women deserve better-~-both cis women and trans women (and before anyone says it, obviously trans men, all people of color, and people generally deserve better, but it’s International Women’s Day).  The world needs to do better, and it starts when we call out sexism, misogyny, racism, transphobia, and transmisogyny.  It starts when we pressure our lawmakers and our school boards to provide meaningful education and laws that actually make sense and protect people’s lives.  It starts when we change the conversations we’ve been having about entitlement, relationships, femininity, masculinity, and what it means to be a person in our modern society.  It starts when we hold ourselves, and each other, to a higher standard.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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~ by Randi Saunders on March 8, 2015.

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