It is international woman’s day today: Although that is every day for me
Everyday is a cause for celebration. Yes, that sounds a bit new age. I am, however, referring to the fact that these days every day is an official observation of a movement, illness or food. Some days there are two or three observances. With so many things we need to do every day, it is a bit hard to figure out which day we are to observe what. Admittedly, one has to find the day that is of utmost importance to us in our individual context.
On this day, we observe the International Woman’s Day. It is a day to be aware of the grand need for equality between the sexes, the importance of women’s perspectives on the international political stage and for growth of women-owned businesses. As a woman who has fought hard everyday for the last ten years to not be seen as the “woman behind the man” and who is looking to open up her own business in the coming year, I can get behind such a day and cause.
Gender has always been an important life construct for me. When I was six years old, I started to see how gender divided my already marginalized community. Men ruled the apartments demanding to be served rice, beans and meat every night. Men gathered at the corner where they played dominoes and drank beer. Men, more often than not, held jobs outside of the immediate neighborhood. Men occupied the public spaces. Men got to experience a different role in a different venue. Many of the women in my neighborhood did not readily occupy public spaces nor did they leave all that often for other neighborhoods. The lives of many of the women surrounding me was quite constricted.
My mother didn’t leave the Bronx often. However, when she did leave it was to get me books or to take me to Penn Station so that I could take Amtrak on up to my boarding school in another state. We were both anomalies. I was the weird one that left our immediate space. My best friend had a baby at the age of 14 and wanted me to be the godmother. My own mother told me I had no business being a godmother or mother at that age. Many of the girls I had known at that time in my life got tired of playing with baby dolls and wanted their own real-life dolls. They felt so abandoned and constrained that they desired to have something that was entirely their own that would supposedly love them unconditionally. I didn’t want to grow up to be any of these girls.
I forged my own path aided by my mother. She sacrificed money and a bit of her sense of comfort so that I could move on. She let the one thing that loved her unconditionally move on so that wouldn’t end up like my best friend. Mind you, my best friend was dealt a bad hand in life. Beaten by her step-father and subsequently put into a foster home, she had many structural barriers put in her path. While my best friend went down a pretty dark path, I saw other of my female friends go on to become doctors, nurses and accountants. The girls in them fought hard against the system and many did make it.
As I entered the workforce, I came to realize that my gender was often quite disruptive to the office dynamics. My gender coupled with my brains and fortitude just confounded many people. There have been many meetings where I was the sole female. On top of which, I was often referred to as “princess” solely because I was the only female. I never demanded special status. I just demanded to be taken seriously and, indeed, they did.
Now, there are still many women out there who face glass ceilings and hostility just for being female. We all together need to consider what this does to the workplace psyche for it affects us all.
On this day, I think of my mother. I also think of my son. Sadly, I do not get to spend today with him. But he is every part of my celebration of International Woman’s Day.