Lent Project Day 14 : International Women’s Day

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

Happy International Women’s Day, friends! I always have some mixed feelings about Women’s Day. I mean, it’s great to shine a light on the huge contributions women make to all aspects of the world – politics, business, medicine, technology, education, our own homes and relationships, entertainment… But shouldn’t we *always* be doing that? Is Kamala Harris’ achievement more… achievement-y (Achieve-minty fresh!)… today than it was on inauguration day or election day or next Thursday? Is the amazing example my mom and my sister and my Auntie V and my friends have in my life more potent today? Notsomuch. The fact that we have to have this day makes me pause. Mostly because all of the marketing engines that hitch their wagon to this, like they haven’t spent the last year disproportionately making women’s lives hard during COVID. I have the same ire about Bell Let’s Talk day. How much free advertising did they get that day vs how poorly do they treat their employees every other day of the year?

Still, I’m glad it’s a thing, and I’m glad that I am privileged enough to be snarky about it without repercussion. Having an opinion as a woman is contraindicated in some places not *that* far from home. 

So, to the post I had planned…

The theme of this year’s event is Choose to Challenge. I feel like theme in particular speaks to me more than others in past years. For many years I’ve looked at challenges as opportunities, and that’s what this theme speaks to me as well. We all choose to challenge our biases and our assumptions about women. As women, we choose to face challenges (as opportunities) and we thrive and grow. The CEO of #dayJob sent a letter, as he does for Women’s Day every year, talking about what Women’s day means from where he’s sitting. One line stuck out for me:

[The] theme is really about making the choice – every day – to challenge ourselves and our broader communities to be and do better despite the adversity.  We shouldn’t fear adversity if the end result is growth and strength of character. –JB

We shouldn’t fear adversity if the end result is growth and strength of character. Yes. So much yes!

I did a project when I was in high school where we were trying to figure out when children start having (or losing) gender bias. We went to a few elementary schools and we asked a set of questions to boys and girls in grade 1, 4, and 8. We asked whether a bunch of professions were boy jobs or girl jobs. The kids in grade 1 spoke earnestly, related to their experience. Whatever gender their teacher or doctor or nurse was, that’s what they’d say. By grade 4, they started talking about a job being “mostly” one gender, but maybe either. By grade 8, the girls didn’t even listen to what profession we were asking about. It was a resounding BOTH/EITHER, across the board. Grade 8 boys started to lapse back into subscribing to traditional (whatever that means) gender roles. Girls/Women aren’t (or shouldn’t be) construction workers or police officers. Boys aren’t (or shouldn’t be) nurses. Women should care for children. This wasn’t a hugely scientific survey. But it worked for our purposes, and I think about those boys sometimes. I know that some of it was because of their limited life experience. Their parents (and their friends’ parents) were largely immigrants from Italy, Portugal, Croatia, and Serbia. Some of their fathers did jobs requiring physical strength (like construction), and most of their mothers raised the kids. But as those boys became men, I wonder how their opinions changed. I wonder what their message to their partners and wives and children is now. My dad worked outside our home, my mom worked inside it. They both raised my sister and I. And my sister and I are kick-ass women (if I don’t say so myself!), despite my dad’s penchant for buying us pink sneakers.

20+ years ago, shortly after I had my wee Bean, my gentleman associate lost his job, so I went back to work and he stayed home with Child. He was a stay-at-home-dad to our son for 4 years, until Child started Junior Kindergarten. We lived out in the sticks and the Moms in the singular local playgroup would shun him because it was… what? Shameful? Weird?… That a man stayed home while his wife worked. Was he lazy, was he a pedophile? What’s *wrong* with him? But two breaths later, they told me how *great* it was that my husband could stay home; how *amazing* that he supports our family like that! Fickle bitches. I really REALLY hope that culture has changed. Anyway, my son grew up with traditional (whatever that means) roles reversed. But he still tries to mansplain things to me every once in a while. And I’m still told to simmer down when I try to shut that down.

So no matter how far I’ve have gotten in my experience, there’s still a ways to go. For many women, there are miles and miles and miles to go.

This Lent, may we find the dignity in all people, especially those who are traditionally (whatever that means) kept down. And may we embrace adversity if the end result is growth and strength of character.

Extra Credit:

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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