In honor of International Women’s Day

Women Speak Up


In today’s climate-controlled, food-through-a-drive-thru, education-for-all world, it is easy for women to become comfortable.Content. Complacent, even.After all, we American women do not have it so bad, do we? We can vote (thank you Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony). We can attend high school and college. We can enter the workforce. For many, we can garner respect in professions that previously had been limited to men. For some professions, we earn equal pay for equal work (teaching, for example).

Once we have children, we can choose to stay home during our children’s infant and toddler years – or longer – if we have familial support or financial means to sustain our family while we do so.

Why, then, are women marching? Why, then, are they striking?
Simply stated, because as long as injustice exists in the world, whether it be against women, children or men, women have taken up the cause of effecting change and improving the lives of others.

Consider this: about 79 percent of all elementary and middle school teachers are women; 91 percent of all registered nurses are women; 96 percent of all dental assistants are women; 32 percent of doctors are women; and 14.8 percent of all police officers are women (Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2006-2010 data).
Clearly, women want to make a difference in the world.

Harriet Tubman in her role as a conductor of the Underground Railroad helped free hundreds of slaves; Jane Addams in 1898 founded Hull House in Chicago to help the poor; Clara Barton in 1881 organized the American Red Cross. And this is just a handful.

There are those who are criticizing the Day Without Women as a strike for privileged women. Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum writes, “Make no mistake, March 8 will mostly be a day without women who can afford to skip work and shuffle childcare and household duties to someone else.”
She argues that for the rest of women—those who cannot take the day off or who choose not to take the day off – that the concept of a women’s strike is “self-defeating and vaguely insulting” because it will suggests that women are expendable, that women entered the workforce to combat boredom or boost self-esteem.

Frankly, I disagree. The point of the strike is to underscore the need for social awareness of the injustices that remain within our society – the ones that women have been trying to change since the dawn of time. Poverty. Illness. Educational opportunities.

The point of the strike is to show that when one member of our society is hurting, we all are hurting. To dismiss the strike as insignificant or an emotional manifestation of bored and privileged women is dismiss the contributions that women have made through the centuries that have resulted in the comfortable modern-day lifestyles many Americans enjoy.

While I chose not to take the day – my work with my students is important to effecting the change I believe integral to the effort – I support the intent of the strike because not all Americans enjoy a life of comfort. Here, in White County, where tourists breeze along our quaint mountain roads, poverty among our school children is epidemic. As long as we have people in our communities who are in need, we are in need of women to speak up on their behalf. That, for me, is the point of the strike*

By Catherine Gibbs

* Originally appeared in the White County (Georgia) News

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