Lovelies! Today is International Women’s Day!
108 years ago, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. To commemorate this activism, National Women’s Day spread through the country, and in 1910 it became International Women’s Day at a Summit in Copenhagen. Read here for more amazing history.
As I read through the history, and the calls to action for this year’s theme: #PledgeforParity, tears rush to my eyes. I think about my own personal history: my sisters, my friends, Bryn Mawr, even my childhood AmericanGirl magazines. I think about how I just bought a house. I think about how goddamn lucky I am to be born the person that I am. I am a white, educated, well off American. Yes there was hard work, but mostly, a tremendous amount of luck. I think about how to use these privileges. I’ve been poised in society in a position of power. So it’s my responsibility to use that power to make a difference. To speak and know that I’ll be heard on issues of the less privileged. To shut up and listen to activists from those groups. To use my checkbook and give money. To use my home to host events. To further the justice quotient in our world.
I’ve got a tattoo on my back that’s big and not very elegant. It’s a lantern surrounded by roses, all wreathed in two sheaves of wheat. It was the first I ever got. My sister Sarah and I walked up and down South Street in Philadelphia with a mock up and $300 in my pocket. I asked each shop what they’d charge for my design, and said yes to the first dude who said $300. Not the best approach to getting a permanent drawing on my body, but I still love the fervor and passion I had.
This tattoo, which will forever be just on the other side of my heart, stands for Bread and Roses. At Bryn Mawr, each of our four holidays is closed with a Step Sing. Yes, nearly grown college women sit on the ground or on the stairs and sing. Lustily, raucously, and tearfully, we sing. Funny parodies of pop songs, old fashioned jabs at Haverford, traditional rondels in Greek, and a short tune dedicated to making a difference.
As we go marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”
As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for roses, too!
As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler—ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!
This song is a call for the just distribution of resources yes, but also a call for just distribution of beauty and joy. Too many people are worn down in the hard grind of surviving, especially women and girls. It’s a call for nolite te bastardes carborundorum. A call for parity. And I, in my relative privileged security, am bound to fight for the roses.
So, every day, I try. Try to smile and listen. To hug. To treat others like full beings. To advocate. I also try to remember I can’t do it alone. So I surround myself with gloriously mad formidable women. The women who have been in my life in the past and are in my life now are some of my dearest relationships. More important to me than past loves, most of my family, and certainly more important than professional contacts. My girl gang. So happy day dearests. Love you all!