Izzy has decided that she’s only celebrating holidays that include a day off from school. That way she can be sure she’s getting the real holidays and not just the Hallmark-y ones. But she is willing to bend the rules and go with me to the International Women’s Day celebration up at the Skirball Cultural Center tomorrow night. The event features the music of Persian vocalist, Mamak Khadem with an ensemble that includes Tzvetanka Varimezova (vocals), Sahba Motallebi (tar), Polly Tapia Ferber (percussion) and Sholeh Wolpe (poetry). Women Hold Up Half the Sky will be open late so ticket holders have the opportunity to view the exhibit.
So what is International Women’s Day? It’s not a Sunday breakfast in bed sort of holiday. March 8th hasn’t really been commercialized so I don’t know if American kids are hearing about it. My girls looked sort of blank when I mentioned it, but Kristina (my Russian ward) knew it right away and said that men bring flowers to women–to their wives, daughters, grandmothers and mothers. Apparently there is Women’s Day in March and then Heroes Day in December, which celebrates men. Yeah, I know men = heroes while women = women. I asked Kristina if they celebrate any woman heroes in December. She just looked at me funny and explained about women getting flowers.
International Women’s Day was started in the US in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America. That’s right, I said socialist. In times gone by and in other parts of the world, the word socialist isn’t used as a sharp-edged rock thrown by conservatives at liberals. International Women’s Day spread throughout Russian and Europe in the early 1900′s. In 1977, the UN endorsed March 8 as UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
To me, March 8 is a day to focus on the connections that women have in our communities and across the world. And while it’s a day to feel good and proud of being a woman, it’s also a time to recognize how much work we have to do. I’ve quoted Zora Neale Hurston to my girls since they were very little–Da woman is da mule of da world. Sounds a little intense to spout at toddler baby girls, but then picture yourself with a kid on one hip, diaper bag/purse/suitcase flung over your shoulder, two or three grocery bags in the other hand as you’re fumbling with your keys trying to find the house key, all the while keeping an eye on your other shimmying child who has that wild-eyed look she gets just before bolting off to chase the neighbor’s cat or a butterfly or piece of lint blowing down the sidewalk. Did I mention the kid on your hip has started whining for dinner? Since you had to stop for groceries after work, it’s almost 6:30 now and you still have dinner, bath, pjs and a bedtime story to crank through before 8pm. Sing it Zora! Da woman is da mule of da world!
This illustration is just the particular mule feeling I’ve had over the years as American mom. The picture would be much different if you lived in, say, India and had to make multiple trips to get all the water your family uses each day, carrying a 5 gallon pot that full, weighs about 42 lbs. But check out the video below and learn about Wello.
Wello is one of those incredibly cool ideas that makes you want to stand up and shout, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” I don’t know, but luckily Wello CEO & founder, Cynthia Koenig did come up with this gem of an idea. If you’re in the position to make an International Women’s Day donation, this is a really great group. I spoke with Cynthia and one of her board members a couple months ago and their heart, business smarts and entrepreneurial spirit are all in the right place.
If you want to get started early, there’s a screening of the movie Pray the Devil Back to Hell on the CARE site tonight at 7:30 EST and an interactive panel discussion with filmmaker Abigail Disney and other participants. Click here to learn more. Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a powerful, prizewinning documentary that tells the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee and the Liberian women who joined forces to stop the civil war in Liberia and bring Charles Taylor to justice. Abby and Leymah are a powerhouse duo. Smart, funny, committed women who don’t back down just because the load gets heavy.
So these are just a few ideas on how to celebrate International Women’s Day. You can find more info and events at this official website. And now I’m off to go tell Scott that he should buy us all flowers tomorrow.