Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I wanted to post something yesterday but am late to this party. I was busy driving my children around to either soccer, tennis, guitar, chess, or basketball. Or I was walking the dog, chatting with and supporting or being supported by friends, remembering to take my vitamins, going to yoga, having lunch with another friend, wishing I could drink coffee after 4pm, cleaning the house, watching the kids play out front so they don’t get killed by car drivers, folding laundry, starting a new load of wash, ovulating, unloading the dishwasher, loading it from the dishes left on the table after breakfast and making dinner. After that, I fell asleep reading a book.
International Women’s Day started in the 1900s which was a time of great cultural change. Anyone who’s watched “Downton Abbey” knows this. The first organized march of 15,000 women was held in New York City in 1908 to demand shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights. I look back at what I comprehend of Women’s History and I stagger at the tremendous changes that have occurred in the last 104 years since that first march. I am grateful for the changes those 15,000 women effected: Title IX and ERA are the least political and so I’ll stop there.
Just so you know, it was first called “International Working Women’s Day.”
This is fascinating (from Wikipedia): “In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.”
So it turns out someone thought they could just mush it into another day of loving us. Not so fast, we might have a headache.
Turns out there is an International Men’s Day. It’s not the Superbowl.
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I have many women friends who are writers, activists, nurses, veterinarians, teachers, yoginis, politicians, therapists, personal trainers, advocates, film makers, maintenance workers, educators, athletes, healers, chefs, actors, lawyers, wives, ex-wives, step-mothers, musicians, artists, poets, doctors, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, sisters and mothers. In my current occupation, mother-woman, I am all these things . . . except the grandmother, ex-wife and step-mother.
So given that I’m a wife-daughter-aunt-sister-mother-woman, it’s perfectly acceptable then that I’d be a little behind celebrating International Women’s Day. What with being celebrated so gloriously yesterday. I’m just getting around to returning all the phone calls and cataloguing the gifts I received. Really.
One of my favorite songs of all time, “Mary” by Patty Griffin is about Jesus’ mother, Mary (perhaps you’ve heard of her), and in it Patty paints a wonderful scene and sums up how it is for a mother-woman (divine or not):
Jesus says ‘Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer’
Flys right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
While the angels are singin’ His praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place
As testament to my mother-womanhood, Thing 2 (11) made a comment yesterday that was innocently oblivious to the International Women’s Day phenomenon. He looked at my hair and said in a tone that could not belie the shock on his face and behind his copper eyes, “Mom! WHAT’S THAT WHITE LINE IN YOUR HAIR?!”
I wasn’t wearing a baseball cap. This is the same child who tells me daily how beautiful I am. He’s a charmer (albeit sincere) and anyone with a 9-12 year-old daughter within a mile until he starts driving better prepare themselves because he’s a sweetie too. I had to explain to him that my hair isn’t #4N:, intensely natural dark brown, all over.
Today, I write to you from the cold office that rests upon the front of my home. It’s 49˚ outside so that means it’s close to 60˚ in here. Along with shivering in my office, I write to you prompted by Thing 2 and his shock as #4N soaks into the strands atop my head. I have been going gray since high school.
Hmm . . . apparently only English-speaking and Spanish-speaking women color their own hair because the instructions are only in their respective languages.
I’m glad I still have the gloves on my hands because every once in a while I have an itch from the chemicals on my head and I have to scratch it. I’m a pro though and the color won’t get on my keyboard because I’ve strategically put on a brown sweater that should nicely match the dye that I’ll rub on it after scratching my scalp. In the warmer months, I color my hair wearing a formerly white beat-up Ralph Lauren Polo button-down shirt which looks like a bird that ate only chocolate followed me around one day outside and compulsively ‘shat’ all over me. With the brown sweater, it just looks like I’ve been pelted with something browner than the sweater. I love saying “shat”; it’s past tense for “shit” right?
This is how I celebrate my womanhood.
When this process is over, in about 10 minutes, I’ll go rinse and then change into clothes for the day. Along with ability and choice to color my hair, another great thing about being a first-world woman is that I often wonder if what I’m wearing is suitable for my “age.” I’m 44 and although I’m exercise regularly I have become distracted of late by a yet another phrase to designate that I don’t know what I’m doing: “age appropriate clothing.” So along with wondering if my roots need coloring, I’m concerned if what I’m wearing would make children cry or offend the Blue-Haired Ladies of the Order of Sweater and Pearls.
“Screw ’em,” says my inner Eve.
But then I argue, “Oh Eve, don’t be such a rebel. They’re women too. They might have marched in 1908. We should honor and celebrate them also by dressing appropriately. Even if they judge me by my hem or my waistline. They wouldn’t do that, would they? They’re pro-women!”
Eve retorts, “Whatev. Hey. Do men wonder if they’re not dressing for their age? Bahhahahah! Never heard of it. A t-shirt and jeans on a guy is the same as a t-shirt and jeans on a boy kid or a t-shirt and jeans on an 80-year-old. That wardrobe (mal)function happens all the time. Go for it. I cleared the way. Adam still wears his grape leaf. ”
So after putting on a hoodie and sweatpants, I’ll put in my contact lenes and use a rotating electric exfoliator brush on my face To Get It 6x Cleaner Than Washing By Hand. Then I’ll give 2 pumps worth of “Intense Wrinkle Repair” moisturizer that I will cover with “Healthy Skin SPF 15” moisturizer with alpha-hydroxy and vitamins. If I give a damn, which I usually don’t, I’ll put on some tinted sunscreen that will help me not Deny My Age, but Defy My Age!
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I’m back. I just rinsed out the color and it looks about as natural as that of the alien female crew member on “Galaxy Quest.” My son definitely won’t view me with confusion and horror today when he comes home.
I only just discovered that yesterday was The Day yesterday in the late morning, I didn’t get any head’s up. I guess my Woman card has been revoked.
Wait a minute. If my card has been revoked, what about all the so-called scandalous females?
A couple years ago, I read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy, and I hoped it would be a searing examination of the state of feminism and its progress and challenges. I also hoped it would sear and indict females who have managed to reduce the entire gender by indulging in the fantasies of the male-dominated media establishment. Sadly, I was underwhelmed; it was a lot like a blind date. In fact the book exposed me to greater confusion and overall sense of “waah” than I had when I started it; it told me about stuff I’d never considered. It made me wish I never opened it. To me it blamed the state of our collective anti-female woes on all of us. Why, for not killing the errant females? And I really resented it. Levy did talk about how men entice/pay/intoxicate young women to do things like expose themselves and smash face with each other for “Girls Gone Wild” and the like, but in the final analysis, when it comes to sex (as a verb — not to be confused with “gender”): we are all acting on instinct. Under the influence or not — if someone wants to release or meet the pheromones, it’s gonna happen without any permission at all.
If we’re gonna go for blaming it on the guys, what better chance of seeing how they really are when women aren’t around than by insinuating ourselves into their scene? To this end, I read Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent which was utterly fascinating. It’s a first-person memoir of Vincent’s commitment for an entire year to conduct herself outside her apartment in drag, disguised as a man as she engaged in male-only activities with at least three separate sets of male groups. One group was a bowling team, another was a professional arena where she joined her male colleagues as they went to strip clubs. The third scenario was her most trying experience: she joined in men’s group therapy. The book was compassionate toward men and put a lot of my assumptions about men on their heads as well as confirmed things that the supposed sixth sense of motherhood (we all have it, actually, we just need to listen to it) already told me: all children, regardless of gender need to feel safe to express themselves emotionally. And, at the risk of repeating myself (but I will): in the final analysis, when it comes to sex (as a verb — not to be confused with “gender”): we are all acting on instinct. Under the influence or not — if someone wants to release or meet the pheromones, it’s gonna happen without any permission at all. Vincent subsequently had herself committed to a mental hospital after writing the book for the emotional toll the experience had on her. She chronicled her time in recovery in Voluntary Madness.
What yesterday made me think about was my commitment to the opinion that if we’re going to honor women, we can’t pick and choose. We don’t get to say, “this woman is worth celebrating, but this one isn’t.”
So when we celebrate Women next March 8, you need to ask yourself: do we celebrate all women, not just Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Jackie Kennedy, Condoleeza Rice, the Virgin Mary, Annie Sullivan and Eve? Because if we are to be fair, we have to celebrate all the others: Anna Nicole Smith, Lindsay Lohan, Mary Magdelen, Lot’s Wife (who apparently didn’t get a name), Bathsheba, Casey Anthony, Condoleeza Rice (2), Vanna White, Marilyn Monroe, Andrea Yates, The Real Housewives of Wherever, and the evil step mothers in all the Grimms Fairy Tales. Of course, to make it easier and politically correct, we can be obtuse and just celebrate their “Essence,” their inherent goodness, and not necessarily what they’ve done, committed, achieved because or in spite of their gender. That’s really safest, right?
If you watch “30 Rock“, you should get where I’m going: If we Celebrate International Women’s Day, we must celebrate smart and cheese-puff snarfing Liz Lemon and scheming, insecure hussy-actress Jenna Maroney:
the captions: Jenna (upper): “Admit it, I look 10 years younger.”
Liz (lower): “No. Younger even. You look like a fetus.”
What about the transgendered woman/man who had a baby? What do we celebrate there?
Celebrate all you want, but I still think we’ve got a long way to go, and I’m not talking about equal pay. I’m talking about fair treatment of women by women. Women can be awfully picky and competitive and unsupportive of each other. Ever hear of conflict between mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law? How about sisters who fight? The Devil Wears Prada? Or Death Becomes Her? Where does enmity this come from? Why are we snarky to each other behind each others’ backs? Or recall The Jerry Springer Show — why are we snarky to each others’ faces? Did men do this to us? Is it the media that shapes our opinions of each other? I wonder if aboriginal women in primitive cultures refer to one another in their vernacular as a “slut” or “bitch” or “stupid” or “fat” or “ugly” or “gold digger” or “useless.” Maybe they do. Maybe it’s not just a first-world problem.
That’s why these days of commemoration confuse the hell out of me. I choose to abstain. I celebrate me and I celebrate you, whatever you are. Unless you’re that transgendered man-woman-man that had a baby. I just can’t get my arms around it. Sorry.
The bottom line is that it’s complicated. I hate labels. And yes, I both celebrate and blame Eve, that minx. It‘s all her fault. That snake or legged reptile that was subsequently rendered legless for his betrayal had nothing to do with it. Right? Oy.
But hey, my hair looks great.