March 8 2013
Happy International Women's Day!
Isn't it wonderful to be a woman?
Today - March 8 - is International Women's Day. In Russia, men wake up early to purchase flowers on International Women's Day - not just for their wives, but also for their daughters and mothers. It's also a part of the celebration to give extra compliments to women today. Bring it on, I say! And in many countries, today is a public holiday, and people don't work!
International Women's Day started out of a spirit of activism. In 1910, German activist Clara Zetkin proposed that the public dedicate the day to considering the political demands of women. Since 1910, in Germany, the U.S., and around the world, much has changed for women. Women demanded suffrage - and they got it. This is true for nearly every country where men are allowed to vote. One notable exception is Saudi Arabia.
Women fought for and won other important political battles in the 20th Century. In many parts of the world, property rights and access to education and work improved. Some of those fights continue today, and sadly women continue to face oppressive and sexist legal systems overseas. At IWF, we call this "The Real War on Women." Too many left-leaning American "feminists" have become distracted from the international plight of women and focus instead of lobbying for bigger government and downright intrusion into the lives of successful, self-sufficient women here at home.
In doing this, they actually promote dependence for women (and men). In their effort to reduce the importance of the family unit (which, perhaps they view as oppressive to women), they've only replaced dependence on a husband or father with dependence on Uncle Sam. That doesn't offer women a lot of hope for controlling their own destiny.
That's why, at IWF, we constantly offer public policy solutions that put women - as individuals - in the driver's seat of their lives. Who should decide what kind of compensation you get at work? You should. Who should decide what kind of health insurance you buy? You should. Who should decide where your kids go to school? You should. Who should decide how you run your new start-up business? You should.
We even feature a series of "modern feminists" in the U.S. who support true equality and independence for women - including independence from government.
Lately, the conversation around American women has centered on the stances of two important female executives: Sheryl Sandburg and Marissa Mayer. In the recent PBS documentary, "Makers," Mayer said she didn't feel comfortable calling herself a feminist because of the negative implications of the term. Feminists can repeat, "Feminism is not a dirty word," or "Feminism is not a controversial word," as many times as they wish. That doesn't change the fact that, as a young American woman, most of the women I've discussed feminism with have felt the need to qualify what kind of feminism they support (and what kind they don't). The conflation of "women's empowerment" and a libertine, cavalier sex life has left a lot of women confused. Some American feminists reject the idea of chivalry and consider men to be oppressors.
The truth is, women hold a valuable, honored place in American society. That's why we have some cultural traditions like allowing women first off the elevator and opening doors for women. I don't see these things as infantilizing; I see them as an expression of respect and honor. And anecdotal evidence from our Valentine's Day video would suggest college students long for a more chilvarous, more serious culture around dating.
At IWF, we simply want each woman to have the freedom to pursue happiness as she sees fit. We know questions about work, family, dating, traditions, religion, sex, and politics are going to inspires a myriad of different responses from the beautifully diverse American population. We celebrate these differences and advocate simply that the government get out of our way.
True feminists should focus their energies on protecting the basic rights to life and liberty for women in the U.S. and abroad.
Happy International Women's Day!