It was 1985 and a woman college professor and I needed to move some boxes from an office we shared to the Women and Work Research and Resource Center, which we founded. I had asked my 19 year-old son to help and we three went about our business, carrying boxes, books, and stacks of folders. All the while, two male faculty members were closely observing us. Rather than pitching in to help, or moving out of the way, they stationed themselves in the doorway through which we needed to continually pass. They amused themselves by wisecracking with one another about what we women were wearing as we struggled to balance our burdens and move the objects from one office to another.
My son, who was witnessing this rude behavior, told me later, “Mom, you can’t image the raunchy comments they made about you and Margie after you passed. They acted like they were in a singles bar, trying to impress a future sex partner. What’s the matter with those guys?
Seems a strange memory to emerge on this 102st International Women’s Day, something that happened over a quarter of a century ago. But recent events and conversations in the media have reminded me that the most tried and true method of disempowering women is to relate to women as sex objects. And there are still guys who use their power to put down, and keep down, half the members of the human race
Perhaps the role we older women need to play is to remind people how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. As the African symbol, the Sankofa bird reminds us, it is often necessary to reclaim and remember our past in order to see clearly a way to put it behind us.
Celebrating this day, which is a national holiday in many countries, can take many forms. Make a donation of time and money to an organization that supports the empowerment of women, (micro-lending, scholarships, internships,) mentor a younger woman, (through your local school, or internationally through one of my favorite programs, Infinite Family ) write an email to your congressperson about what you will no longer tolerate, make sure businesses that sponsor misogyny know they will never have you as a customer. I’ll be playing with my InterPlay troupe, dancing on behalf of all the women in the world, and the men who love them. Happy International Women’s Day! Let me know how you are celebrating.