Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Celebrating Us

March 8, 2011 is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. The annual holiday has roots in our Women's Suffrage Movement and is now celebrated worldwide. International Women's Day—which is aptly framed by Women’s History Month—is an opportunity to honor women, celebrate the accomplishments we’ve made, and raise awareness for the obstacles that we still face. This year's theme is "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women."

I recently wrote a blog with suggestions for how to honor and celebrate women. Although it was not written for this holiday, I think it is definitely appropriate. So, in honor of this great day, here are a few ways (big and small) to honor women ...

For the entire day, refrain from lamenting about how fat, skinny, too tall, too short, too old or too whatever you are. Just for this day, let’s try to focus on what really matters—how strong, intelligent, accomplished and compassionate we are. Hey, you never know, it might just stick.

Don’t listen to any music that contains lyrics that degrade women or promote violence against women. And no, it’s not just rap music (although I do suggest burning anything you own by Soldier Boy or Chris Brown). Other genres are just as guilty—“Every Breath You Take” by the Police, “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come Off” by Joe Nichols, and “Never Make a Pretty Woman Your Wife” by Jimmy Soul come to mind. And please, stop giving these morons your money.

Volunteer for an agency that helps women, whether it’s a food bank, low income childcare center or, of course, domestic or sexual violence agency (you knew I’d make a plug). You don’t have to be a millionaire to make a huge impact. Give your time, your talents, and your love. It really will make a difference.

Hug a supportive man in your life. Yes, men who honor our equality deserve some recognition, too. And then, gently suggest that perhaps he should prepare dinner tonight.

If you have a partner, remind yourself that you are with that person because you want to be, not because you need to be. Knowing that you have chosen to spend your life with this person, even though you did not have to, is a much more powerful feeling, in my opinion. And take a moment to thank all the strong women in history who have made it possible for you to have that choice. If you are single, remind yourself that you are of no less value because you do not have a partner. You are a whole person, who is leading an important life, with or without someone there to witness it daily.

For the military folks reading this (and those who are not), learn about female veterans. Get to know them and learn their stories. They have amazing strength and passion to share.

Find out what’s going on in politics—whether it’s local, state, national or worldwide. We won the right to participate in government 91 years ago. Let’s not waste it.

Teach yourself and your child(ren) about strong women in history. Here’s a list to get you started: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/100import/.

Support all of your Sisters, even if you don’t agree with everyone’s lifestyle, choices or ideas. At least for today, let’s try not to say anything negative about another woman. And yes, that includes Kate Gosselin, Nadya Suleman (Octomom), Sarah Palin, and Lindsay Lohan (or whoever happens to be the target this week). Maybe someone will even refrain from saying something negative about you, hmmm?

Women, open your own account. Even if you’re in the most supportive, loving, never-in-a-million-years-would-it-ever-fail relationship...it’s still a good idea.

Learn the whole story. If you think Charlie Sheen’s antics are cute, do a little more research to discover how he has treated the women in his life. He’s been arrested for domestic battery against his most recent ex-wife, Brooke Mueller, who currently has a restraining order against him. Sheen also physically and emotionally abused Denise Richards, “accidentally” shot Kelly Preston, and was arrested for beating his girlfriend, Brittany Ashland, in 1996. And that’s just a summary of his history of abusing women. There’s more. And there’s nothing funny about it. Stop supporting men who beat women. And yes, I’m also talking about Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin. There are plenty of other actors out there. Let’s stop giving these guys any of our time. Here's another idea: Write a thank you letter to the producers of Two and a Half Men, who finally did the right thing.

Hug your daughters and tell them how strong, beautiful, and amazing they are. Tell them about the struggles you’ve overcome and what your dreams are for their future. Ask about her dreams. Encourage her. Tell her that she deserves to be treated with respect. To honor this year's theme, "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women," remind her of the importance of education. And encourage her to explore math, science, or any subject that may be difficult for her. Perhaps the best thing about getting an education is mastering something that once seemed impossible. And most importantly, lead by example. Be proud of yourself, and she will learn to be proud of herself, too.

Teach your sons about women’s value. Teach them that there’s nothing weak or inferior about women. Teach them that it is not an insult to “throw like a girl” or any other stereotypical statements they may be hearing from peers. (And please, please never say anything sexist like this to your, or anyone else's, child). The more men in this society who value women, the farther we will be able to advance. So, tell them young and tell them often—women really are their equals.

Find out about the powerful women who live in a country other than your own. Women in many developing nations are facing obstacles that we, in the United States, could never imagine. Learn about these struggles and what you can do to help, because no matter how far away these women may live, they are all our Sisters. Here’s a great organization to check out: http://www.madre.org/. And, if you’d like to have monthly dinners with a group of like-minded, socially conscious women in your area, while helping women worldwide, visit http://diningforwomen.org/.

Finally, recognize your own accomplishments. We may not have fought for suffrage or have our names in a history book. But, each of us, in our own way, has done incredible things in our lives—whether it’s caring for our child(ren), excelling in education or our career, supporting our soldier, being a great friend, helping a worthy cause, or some combination thereof. Take a moment to appreciate all that you’ve been able to accomplish. You deserve it.

Happy International Women’s Day, Sisters!

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