I awoke to a ding on my phone from a friend in Uganda wishing me a happy International Women’s Day. I thanked him for his well wishes, and promptly went to look up what International Women’s Day is. I found it originally began in New York, but after Russian women got the right to vote on March 8, 1917, March 8th became the day to celebrate women around the world. It is a day for women’s issues to be championed and the spotlight to be shined on progress made. I found out it is not only a national holiday in many countries other than Uganda, but it has also been celebrated since 1909. What? How have I missed this? Probably because it was started by a socialist movement and further celebrated by communists, and now is going forward with feminist backing. These are not the groups conservative women typically link arms with, which I think is unfortunate in this instance, because there is a global issue and we are burying our heads in the sand. We object to the methods of protest, or the forceful nature of the groups, or the perception that somehow taking care of the home and children is frowned upon, or the agenda that women want to be like men.
There are a whole host of reasons we, as conservative women, are unaware of this movement. However, when you see women who strap their babies to their backs so they can go to work because there is no childcare, or when you become aware that school girls cannot go to school while they are having their periods because there are no feminine products available to them, something shifts inside of you. Women’s issues are no longer about some bold and vocal women who seemingly want to attack all conservative viewpoints. You recognize those same voices are loud, because so many women are silenced by their shackles. They sit, on cardboard each month in their homes while they bleed because they have no other option. They are ashamed of the very thing that makes them women and gives the ability to create life. The children they bear become a liability when it comes to getting out of poverty. Womanhood and motherhood should be celebrated, not a source of shame, and that is something ALL women can get behind.
I don’t think women want to take the place of men. I don’t think they want to become higher up, or somehow over men. They simply want their voices to be heard. They want to be respected, as women. They don’t want their ideas and viewpoints to be dismissed, just because they are female. They don’t want their gender to be a liability. In other countries, their futures are set for them, because of their gender. They miss so much school they fall behind, so far they cannot catch up. Without an education, they repeat the cycle of young marriages, young motherhood, and young poverty.
Here it is different. Women have an abundance of options. We can have careers, or children or both. We can vote and have a say. Yet, underneath all those options, is a mindset that we should not want more. We should be happy with what we have and not press to go further, as if ambition is only the right of males. As if our ideas are somehow flawed, because we do not think in the same way men do. Trust me, we do not want to think like men do! We have a uniquely feminine viewpoint, which is absent from many male-dominated fields. They are missing out on some pretty spectacular ideas, and they don’t even know it.
What we bring with us is more than just people who can get it done. (And we can get it done, because we are superb multitaskers!) However, we are also visionaries, strategists, creatives, innovators, analysts, collaborators, and worker bees. We can do it all, if given the chance. The thing is, God made us that way. We are made in his image. Uniquely formed, just like men, with specific gifts and talents to be used. To be pigeon-holed is to be limited and not fully who God made us to be. There is more for us.
Jesus knew that, and he set women free. The woman at the well, the adulterous woman, Mary and Martha, and a whole list of others, each felt his acceptance of who they were. As they were. He didn’t demand from them, he allowed them to be who they were and he called them up in truth and in love to be more fully themselves. Once again, he was a rebel of his day. He is our example of how women should be treated, accepted, respected, and included. Rather than seen as property, or less than, he elevated women and called them into their purposes. Purposes beyond childrearing, he called them to walk alongside him, to spill their tears for him, and to anoint him. He knew their hearts were tender because of motherhood. He knew they had wisdom because they were women. He honored their roles, and he raised them up. They were the first to see him alive after his death, because he knew they would understand resurrection from a dead place. They had lived it, when he called them forth. He was a feminist, and I think he would celebrate International Women’s Day, because he wants all women to be free, and I can celebrate that too.