Women and girls

“There’s nothing like having a daughter for turning you into a feminist,” remarked a parishioner after a sermon I gave sometime ago. While I remember neither the specific statement I made nor exactly when this exchange occurred, I vividly remember thinking, “I really hope I was a feminist before we had a daughter. Maybe I haven’t been as strong and vocal an advocate for and with women as I thought?”

Girls are the secret weapon in the war on poverty. But only if they’re protected and educated. – Mercy Corps’ A Girl Can

However, on this International Women’s Day (March 8) it is all too tragically clear that simply having a daughter – or a sister or an aunt or a wife or a friend or a cousin or a mother – is not enough to transform people into feminists*:

Domestic Violence

Via United Methodist Women.

Women ages fifteen to forty-five are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined. – Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Hoping and praying that those awful, sobering, gut-wrenching, heart-rending statistics change is a good first step, but it isn’t enough.

I definitely haven’t paid enough attention over the years to the excellent work and advocacy being done by UM Women: Fighting domestic violence, partnering with civic leaders, and providing a plethora of resources and events. We can join these already-in-progress efforts.

Girls who stay in school during adolescence marry later and are less likely to be subjected to forced sex. – Mercy Corps’ A Girl Can

How else can we support equality on this International Women’s Day? Again, no wheel-inventing necessary, simply learn from and move with others leading the way:

  • The ONE Campaign offers 5 ideas, all of which you can do from your computer (or, you know, other devices).
  • Wold Chicago is hosting a great event today. My mom and my wife are attending it. Hopefully I can get them to share about the event in a future post. (Full disclosure: World Chicago’s Executive Director, Peggy Parfenoff, is a long-time family friend.)
  • Read A Girl Can from Mercy Corps. Their pictures, stats, and video will enrage you, inspire you, and move you to action.

A girl who can read teaches her mother to read, tells her brothers about women’s rights, and makes school a priority for her own children. – Mercy Corps’ A Girl Can

In the spirit of ONE’s idea #5: Looking back on my formative years, before I knew terms like feminist, advocate, empowerment, equality, or gendered roles, I knew that our family didn’t always fit the usual mode. Sure, Mom cooked most of the meals. But Dad did the laundry and we all helped clean the house.

Mom and Dad had the same level of education and both worked similar full-time, outside-of-the-home jobs.

Dad painstakingly worked to keep all the landscaping immaculate. He knew every flower, plant, tree, and (horrors!) weed. Mom was the one with the collection of sports trophies for softball, basketball and bowling. The Sports Illustrated subscription came to her. It was a big accomplishment the day when teenaged Dave finally beat Mom at ping-pong for the first time. Teaching me to throw, catch and hit a baseball? Mom did that. Learning proper form and release shooting hoops? That came from Mom. Scoring bowling by hand? Reading a box score in the newspaper? Correctly marking each play on the baseball score card? Mom, Mom, and Mom again.

Thank you, Mom (and Dad) for teaching me strength, partnership, and equality simply by being who you are. I love you. I hope Joann and I can pass on those lessons to both our son and our daughter.

Your turn! How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?

*Yes, I realize that is a loaded term for some, a term to avoid. However, I truly don’t understand that at all. If women are people too, then what could possibly be bad about “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men“?? I’m not being glib here, I truly don’t see the problem or issue or controversy.

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