Wouldn’t it be great if a day such as this was no longer needed?
What if we lived in a world of gender parity, not only in this country, but around the world?
The theme of today’s International Women’s Day is gender equality. Ah, just imagine if that were already the case!
Some of us grew up in a time when women’s issues, women’s rights weren’t really a topic of discussion. Females supported males, and that was pretty much the end of the story.
Until, well, the late ‘60s and ‘70s came and with it, we changed the course of women’s lives in our culture.
But many younger women haven’t experienced sexism in the manner we did (thank goodness!). What’s the problem, they ask?
Let’s take a closer look.
Did you know that working women in 2014 made 79 cents to a man’s dollar? Or that the pay gap has hardly changed in a decade? At this rate, that gap won’t be bridged for 100 years.
Moreover, the pay gap is worse for women of color. It’s worse for mothers (and only grows with age). Some states are worse than others, but women in every state experience this.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this gap spans almost all occupations.
And think about it—we women have it far better in this country than across much of the world. Especially in Muslim countries, a woman’s rights’ focus is on far different things . . .
I’ve often used the wonderful example of Malala Yousafzai in this blog—the young Pakistani girl who when the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools, stood up to them. And the Taliban shot her. But she lived, and now, stronger than ever, continues through her foundation to help educate girls.
But she is by far not alone.
Raheel Raza, the president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, also came from Pakistan. As a young girl, she began writing because of course she grew up in a culture where girls were supposed to be seen and not heard.
This grew into a long and successful career as a freelance journalist, and she recently worked with eight other women’s rights activists through the Clarion Project on its latest film, Honor Diaries, which tackles honor-based violence.
We know about those, right? How a Middle-Eastern woman can (and often is) stoned to death for being raped? For adultery? While the males perpetuating the criminal rape or part of the adulterous couple aren’t even questioned . . .
Those are the more extremes, but as Raza says, girls are often horrifically punished for glancing at a boy . . .
And here’s the secret: This doesn’t just occur in the huts of far-removed Middle-Eastern villages. According to Raza’s research, it occurs right here in the USA.
In fact, Newsweek reported that genital mutilation has been perpetrated on girls in this country, and we’ve known about it, for a very long time. The fact of the matter is that the number of women and girls at risk for this, here, in the USA, has more than doubled in the past 10 years.
Didn’t you just gulp?
Raza’s powerful book, Their Jihad, not my Jihad, is a collection of newspaper columns on the themes of political jihad, women’s rights, and the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism—all over the world. Now living in Canada (bet we can figure out why!), she was the first Muslim-Canadian to lead mixed-gender prayer services.
She’s also hilariously funny. Incredibly well spoken. And as courageous a woman as I’ve seen, unafraid to take on, well, just about anybody.
But what’s the point of this for you? What can you do about any of it?
Making a difference is easier than you think.
Participate in International Women’s Day, even if just online. Comment, share, listen to the speeches, all of which will have calls to action.
Support the causes of women such as Malala and Raza. With just a few dollars, or active participation.
Make sure your daughters and nieces and granddaughters all know what it’s like to be female in other countries. AND, that women in this country still only make 79 cents to the man’s dollar. Whenever I talk with a young girl about that, her eyes always spring wide.
Vote. My goodness alive, a woman is about to be the Democratic Nominee for Present of the United States!
And NO! I’m not telling you who to vote for. I’m mentioning it because even though we’ve come a long way, we still have a long, long way to go.
My point is to exercise your privilege to vote—and it is a privilege, from which women worked long and hard in the last century, to put into our hands.
Vote for the candidates of your choice, absolutely. And while you’re at it, see which ones fight for the rights of women . . .
In essence, our rights are all up to us. It constantly amazes me that now we’re the adults in the room! But, we are. It’s time to make a difference. We are it.
So go out and take an action. Go out and do it!
I’d love to know your thoughts, and how things go!
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.