This year’s International Women’s Day was met with powerful perspectives and utmost support by students in the Gender and Women’s Studies program. Students from Dr Ilya Parkins’ course, “Feminist Theory in the Humanities”, and students in Dr Sue Frohlick’s “Feminist Geographies of (Un)Belonging”, crafted posters in conversation with International Women’s Day. This was the second annual showcasing for International Women’s Day and it will not be the last. The United Nations website has a page providing insight into the gradual emergence of International Women’s Day – highlighting suffragist movements, rallies fighting for the rights of women in various countries, and some of the steps toward equality. The work of students in the Gender and Women’s Studies department can be included in the list of steps in the right direction.
Of great interest to me moving forward is the process of defining womanhood: Do we have a shared experience? What does it mean to be a woman? The topics covered in the posters helped resurface the experiences of women that have been pushed to the periphery. Students covered a wide range of themes including but not limited to ability, race, sexuality, colonial spaces, immigration, and various feminist theories. A recurring theme across many posters was intersectionality. Indeed, International Women’s Day is not just for the women in the most privileged positions; it should serve as a reminder that there are brilliant, successful women in every corner of the world who deserve due credit. This day should keep us on our toes and remind us that we have not yet arrived at perfect equality. Equality is not only for cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, upper-class, white women. In response to International Women’s Day and the brilliant posters of my fellow students, I have written a poem and included it below. I hope this International Women’s Day reminded you to celebrate and cherish the women in your life during the other 364 days of the year and to give space and a megaphone to the women who are fighting to be heard.
Dear women who made history, and women who didn’t make it into our history books,
Thank you, I see you.
I’m grateful for the work you put in and the progress you never got to see.
Thank you to the women who fought behind the scenes.
Who were confined by fear, and fought anyway.
Dear women of the now.
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.
You can do anything they tell you you cannot do.
Our liberation has not yet arrived.
We have sisters on the rooftops, yelling for rights, recognition, and a damn break.
Hear them. Help them. Lift them up and break down the oppressive systems they wear on their shoulders like a 10-tonne backpack.
Dear young people of the world,
Dear women of the future,
Some of you will waltz into the category, and some of you will have to claw your way in,
But no matter how you make it here, I hope you wear your womanhood with pride.
I hope being labelled a woman presents you with opportunity and not confinement.
If you are you, you are good enough.