I Am a Feminist Who Loves Celebrating Things and I Ignored International Women's Day -- WHAT? WHY???

A photo of a young black girl wearing a white t-shirt that says "grl pwr" on it, giving a peace sign and a fierce face to the camera.
Photo by Kiana Bosman.


Sunday was International Women's Day.

Traditionally, I like to get into the various "days" on the calendar. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a home where the breakfast table was adorned as an homage to whatever holiday was happening that day, with little decorations and (usually) chocolate gifts, but I see everything from Mother’s Day to Earth Day and even the greeting-card-invented Valentine’s Day as lovely reminder-excuses to celebrate and express my appreciation for the people and things that I love.

Combine that with my vocal feminism and you'd think I would have been ALL OVER International Women's Day, right?

Well, turns out that, in recent years, if you assumed that, you would be wrong wrong wrong.

While just two years ago I managed to throw together a little homage to IWD on this here blog, I have completely lost the will to publicly celebrate this day. In fact, I have a vague memory that the 2018 post was more of an "I should do this" post than a genuine desire to celebrate, and that last year I just... didn't want to.

At the time, I thought it was because I had pulled back from posting about all these commemorative days. There are SO MANY now! If I try to recognize the intersectional feminist calendar, it would include any day recognizing women, LGBTQ+, BIPOC people and cultures, and people with disabilities. Plus, I am very interested in mental health and there are three different weeks devoted to mental health/mental illness/mental wellness, which is also kind of a LOT.

So that's a reasonable excuse to peace out on International Women's Day, right? I was tapped out on all these special days, in general, and needed a BREAK.

Except.

Oh, there is an except.

Except that last year, when I didn’t feel like posting anything on International Women’s Day I found that I DID feel like posting on International Men’s Day.

I wanted to, and did, share posts about non-toxic masculinity and the necessity of men participating in the feminist movement and thanked those who do so.

I felt an inner drive to make a public deal out of a few male feminists and didn’t feel the same drive to recognize and thank all the women who paved the way for me to waltz into a life where I get to live alone at 35 and without being a confusing pariah to society??? WHAT???

Time to dig in and find all my self-contradictory beliefs, my internalized misogyny, and probably laziness:

One:

The way we talk about ourselves on these days is a strange brew of Girl Power/"I don't need a man"/women-can-do-no-wrong high fives while also embracing the very domestic and emotional labour-based traits that I thought we were trying to shake off and share, not own as inherently ours.

I completely get where this comes from as well as that any group of people is going to have some internal inconsistency, and yet my first reaction is to back away from it.

Two:

The way people talk about women on this day can be super gender-binary-normative, as if there are two categories of distinct genders with distinct traits that come at birth. I also see lots of importance placed on bearing and raising children, which is no doubt an incredible feat, but I thought we were trying to move beyond these things in our definition of womanhood.

I also get where this is coming from. People are speaking from their own experiences and in their attempt to celebrate women they may not realize they are being exclusive in how they define it. I also don't have to agree with how everyone celebrates to take part.

Three:

I truly believe that one of the main things the feminist movement needs to progress is for men to enthusiastically join in, and I recognize that many of them need some kind of nudge to see that they are welcome. Sure, ideally they would figure it out on their own, but they clearly aren’t and I learned in marketing that you work with what people are actually doing, not what you think they should be doing.

So apparently, my desire to invite men in for the ride and show them they can be celebrated for something besides the toxic elements of masculinity meant prioritizing them over women when I could have just continued to celebrate women and invited the men into the mix.

Three:

This is the one I don't want to admit, even to myself: feminine things aren't as "cool" as masculine things. This is a pervasive bias in our society and so it's not exactly surprising that I absorbed it. Heck, it's the reason why I made myself develop the taste for beer in university--I didn't want to be the girl who only drank girly drinks. I wanted to be the cool girl who drank beer.

So did I feel on some level that it was less cool for me to celebrate women than to celebrate the men who support women? PROBABLY!

I am not loving this fact - the fact that this bias against feminine things has cut so deep inside of me that I actually am beginning to shy away from doing things that help women.

But I have to recognize it to fight it, right?

In the meantime, a happy belated International Women's Day to you all.

An animated gif with the words "shimmy if you're with her" at the bottom and images of men and women of different races and styles shimmying their shoulders.
Libby VanderPloeg on Giphy



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