Did you know that this holiday was originally celebrated as National Women's Day, established by the Socialist Party of America in 1909? Did you know that 15,000 women marched in New York City the year before to demand the right to vote, shorter hours, and better pay? Did you know that Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Germany brought about the idea of an International Women's Day in 1910?
I didn't. I didn't even remember this morning that today was International Women's Day--not until I saw a post from a former student colleague of mine who's finishing her doctoral dissertation in systematic theology.
In 1909, there was no such thing as a female rabbi--in 2013, I'm the assistant for one.
Alas, in 2013, a Roman Catholic woman is still regarded Thomistically as only partly human--and this idea manifests itself, among other ways, in the persistent refusal of the upper echelons of the Roman Catholic hierarchy even to talk about the possibility of ordaining women to ministry.
This is the form of sexist oppression I personally face each day. And to think that I'm one of the fortunate ones! Indeed, I'm a citizen of one of the most privileged countries in the world. As a woman with pale skin, my privilege increases even more. I've got it good.
And yet--I don't. Women don't. Women with dark pigmentation don't. Women who have male genitals (i.e. trans-women) definitely don't. Even in this supposedly great nation, we are underpaid, undervalued, underemployed, under-respected. Under. Supine. It's sinful, and it's far worse in other parts of the world.
Clara Zetkin said that this day would be a day for women to name their demands. Here are mine, on behalf of my sister women, my daughters, and their daughters:
~I demand, first and foremost, that women be treated equally to men in religious contexts.
~I demand that women be treated equally to men in the workplace.
~I demand that the voices of women be heard first when societal policies that impact women are being discussed.
~I demand that all women, especially those most marginalized, be treated with honor and respect by all men and privileged women.
~I demand that all those who experience privilege on a daily basis, from white men in power to men of any color to women who are wealthy and educated, examine their daily actions for the ways in which they participate in and promote the systematic oppression of women, and that having recognized their wrongdoing, they change their ways and make amends.
I pray that I will be able to see the ways in which I have participated in this oppression so I may begin to remedy it. In the meantime, I speak out with the power of my voice, knowing that when I speak, people listen.
Finally, I thank all the women before me who spoke up so that my voice could be amplified. Sister women, you have done so, so well. Thank you.