Commentary Topic: International Women's Day (March 8th)
Audio/Podcast link to be added once available.
For instance, in Literature: Murasaki Shikibu, the woman credited with writing the first novel, ever. Her story The Tale of Genji, written around 1010 AD, not only broke from the fashionable poetic structures of the time, it offered thorough descriptions and an intimate look into the intrigues of courtly living in 11th Century Japan, which otherwise would have been largely a mystery to historians. YOU try doing NaNoWriMo with a calligraphy brush.
In Geography: Alright, the obvious choice is Sacagawea, but not for the obvious reasons. As a little Shoshone girl, Sacagawea was kidnapped into a neighboring tribe, sold in marriage to a French trader as a teen, and that trader was hired to accompany Lewis & Clark because his young wife spoke Shoshone. He was paid, she was not.
Sacagawea did not volunteer to guide Lewis & Clark.
She bore her infant son on her back as she led these jerks along the trek.
She translated and prepared meals for what were essentially her captors.
They accidentally stumbled across her brother who had also been kidnapped to another tribe--it was apparently a tearful, heart-warming reunion. Did they let her stay with him? OF COURSE NOT.
Then on top of all that, when Lewis & Clark came across a sick fur coat that they wanted as a gift for President Thomas Jefferson, did they part with their own money or goods? No, they decided to trade it for Sacagawea’s beaded belt, which she had probably made by hand FOR HERSELF. Her property: gone.
We could honor her for her contributions to Geography--the least exciting category in Trivial Pursuit--OR we could honor the goddess-like restraint that she showed in not slitting those asshole’s throats in their sleep.
In the Arts: Frida Khalo. Frida “I am proud of my broke-ass body” Khalo. When she was 18, she was in a bus accident. Here’s what broke: several ribs, a collarbone, her pelvis, her spinal column, her right leg in 11 places--also a dislocated shoulder, a crushed right foot and a handrail from the bus that pierced her abdomen and uterus rendering her unable to have children. What did she do?
She walked it off, man!
PAINTED WICKED SELFIES.
Approached an artist she admired--married him-- then had an extramarital bisexual affair with JOSEPHINE BAKER. YOU DO YOU, FRIDA!! YOU’RE A GODDAMNED MIRACLE!
In the category of Sports: Atlanta. The 1996 Olympic Games. Everyone, everywhere lost their fucking minds when Kerri Strug stuck that one-foot-sprained-ankle landing Tiny Tim Style. If you ever run into someone who says “I met Kerri Strug” you are obligated to hi-five that person.
We could do this forever, running down names and categories we've all heard before. So lets move out of the immediate comfort zone in observance of International Women’s Day, shall we?
Neerja Bhanot, a Pan Am flight attendant in Mumbai who warned the flight crew of a hijacking-in-progress in time for the crew to evacuate from the grounded plane safely. Neerja Bhanot, who quickly ushered passengers out the emergency exit when, after a 17 hour standoff, the hijackers opened fire in the cabin. She was shot to death shielding three children with her body.
Irene Joliot-Curie, daughter of Marie Curie (yes, that Marie Curie). On her 18th birthday, Irene was driving ambulances on the French front during WWI. She was not a nurse. Those ambulances were filled with rudimentary x-ray technology she and her mother had designed, and she was driving from camp to camp, teaching the soldiers how to use the machines so they could detect shrapnel in their wounded brethren and save lives. Together with her mother, the ladies Curie ran 20 mobile hospital sites, with the full knowledge that the cumulative doses of radiation the two of them were receiving from the equipment while training group after group of soldiers would cause irreversible damage to their bodies.
Lebanese news anchor Rima Karaki, who kicked a religious leader off her show when he said being interviewed by a woman was beneath him, then calmly turning to the camera, she said “Either there is mutual respect, or the conversation is over.” BOSSBITCH HERO.
Sylvia Rivera, a trans activist who had been orphaned at 3 years old, living on the streets by 11, and witnessed the Stonewall Riots as a teenager. She spent her entire adult life in activism for the LGBT community, traveling, speaking, and all the while fighting horrific personal demons and enduring the loss of close friends to heinous hate crimes.
Chicago’s own Rev. Willie Barrow, who needs no introduction--who we just lost on Thursday.
These are all women who, in following the passion that tumbles through their veins, have given us immense gifts and set an incredible bar through their examples.
Women who have given their lives for strangers.
Women who have crushed barriers.
Women who have shredded expectations and snatched the phrase “you can’t” out of the very throats of those idiotic enough to utter the words.
Girl Scouts, Cheerleaders, Math Masters, Chess players, Athletes, Immigrants, Chairwomen, Suffragettes, Senators, Soldiers, Singer/Songwriters, Presidents, Activists, Parliament Members, Mothers, Mentors, BFFs, CEOs, RNs, and PhDs.
The ladies in your life and the ones sitting next to you right now.
There’s some hot debate about whether International Women’s Day should even be a thing. If we get to a time when it is superfluous: awesome. But until then, setting aside a day to take joy in the ferocious grit of womankind is not too much to ask.