The first time I remember hearing anything about International Women’s Day was when I was working on my MBA. It came up because I was in a class that dealt with some businesses overseas, and we needed to communicate with them, but we couldn’t because it was a national holiday in that country, and they were closed for the day. This intrigued me. Why had I never heard of this holiday before? If it was a holiday celebrating women, why didn’t we do anything for it here in the U.S.?
That wasn’t that long ago. In fact, I think it was in 2011. Thankfully, things have changed a little bit since then. While it’s not quite a national holiday that places close for here in the U.S. (there really aren’t that many), it is definitely celebrated, and it is definitely much more widely known.
There’s something else going on today, too. Not coincidentally, it is on the same day as International Women’s Day. It’s called “Day Without a Woman”. It’s a movement to bring awareness to the fact that women are still discriminated against sometimes here in the U.S. and even more so around the world. We have come a long way, but there is still most definitely a gender pay gap. And women still aren’t quite equal at times. It’s a bit sad given how far we’ve come, but still unfortunately true.
#DayWithoutAWoman is kind of a spin-off of the women’s march that happened the day after the inauguration. Basically, to bring awareness to these issues, women that were able to and wanted to were supposed to not work today, wear red, and not shop, except from women-owned businesses. Given I didn’t hear much about this until recently, I didn’t plan to take the day off on such short notice, and although I probably still could have, it would have required another woman doing some of my work, which to me would have defeated the purpose. So I chose to work today, but I did wear red, and I have not purchased anything. Sadly, I have seen women judge other women for their choice to both work and not work today. That’s missing the point, in my opinion. Each choice is valid. Each choice can still bring awareness. Today is about celebrating women, and not judging each other.
I’m lucky to have not felt too much discrimination as a woman, especially as one that has basically rejected gender standards quite a bit. Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in fields that are male-dominated–technology and business. I started my career as a software developer, a job that is definitely heavily dominated by men. I worked for four years for a company where I was the ONLY female developer the entire time I was there. Not to mention the fact that I can also fix a computer, play poker, and drink beer with the best of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have my stories. I used to play poker with a group of almost all men, men that I worked with. It used to be all men until another female co-worker and I declared that we’d like to join, so they taught us and invited us to play. One day a new guy joined, and not surprisingly, underestimated me, the girl playing poker. Guess what? He lost. And guess what? The guys I played with backed me up. New guy was chastised – “we told you not to underestimate her!” It made me laugh at the time, but also made me appreciative that those guys counted me as one of them, at least in that regard.
Another time Ricky and I were out drinking beer at a bar. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m just as into craft beer as any guy, and I know what I’m drinking. Ricky had gotten up to go look at bottles and there were several guys sitting next to me. One guy was looking for an IPA to order, and I recommended one. He basically ignored me and continued discussing another possible beer with his friends. Ricky came back over, and I told him and he recommended the SAME BEER and the guy ordered one and loved it. Go figure.
International Women’s Day comes at an interesting time for me this year. I’m currently reading a book that was released yesterday, We: An Manifesto for Women Everywhere. It’s kind of a step-by-step guide for women to help make their lives better. That includes a lot of facets, but it’s essentially nine different principles to work through. As I’m trying to take my time and work my way through it, I’m getting a lot out of it so far. It’s definitely making me think. It brings to mind a lot of things, like how, as women, it’s so easy to put ourselves down and beat ourselves up about things, in a lot of different ways. Obviously, there’s the physical aspects. There’s seemingly an ideal that men (and sometimes it feels like society in general) want women to look like, and almost no woman looks exactly like that ideal. Besides that, even, it’s so easy for us to put pressure on ourselves to be a certain way or do certain things. The list of what we all feel like we have to do or be is pretty much endless. And so we try, and we fail to achieve that elusive perfection. And then we talk down about ourselves, but in our heads as well as to others. I wish that we didn’t do this. I wish instead that we could just all learn to realize our own worth, and instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others or to impossible standards, we could instead allow ourselves to just be the value that we are and to recognize that value in others as well, in spite of our differences. And I know guys suffer from some of this as well. It is human nature, basically. But it feels like it’s so much more prevalent among women.
So here’s my takeaway from this. Here’s what I want to do, and I want to be. I am pretty far gone from that physical ideal, for sure. I’m overweight. I have gray hair. I’m not as young as I used to be. I don’t exercise enough. I love food and beer a little too much, and I don’t even pluck my eyebrows. But I like me. I like my life. I like my choices and my personality. And I am lucky enough to have a significant other who likes me and our life as well. But what I want is for other women to see that. I want other women to see that it is OK and GOOD to love yourself and love your life. You can have a great life and not be a certain size. You can have a great life and not have kids. You can have a great life and be single. You can have a great life and just be whoever you are.
So today, celebrating International Women’s Day, that’s my hope and wish. That the women that come to know me see me as an example of loving yourself and your choices even in spite of not being exactly what you think you should be.
With that in mind, Happy Women’s Day to all.