Listen up ladies: today is International Women's Day. Established in the early 1900s, International Women's Day promotes and celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women, past and present. There is no shortage of women accomplishing great things-everyday. And they're doing so while earning about 25% less than their male counterparts. They're doing so against great odds. They're doing so amid danger and real consequences. Sometimes, they're doing so just to put dinner on the table or pay the light bill. Internationally and locally, from the politically savvy to the poverty stricken, women all over this world are inspiring others and working to make a difference.
But not everyone thinks women are all that. You must have been hiding under a rock if you have missed the most recent misogynistic tirade of talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh's now-famous accusations that Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke is a "slut" and a "whore" have been in the headlines for days. Fluke spoke out in favor of the Obama administration's contraception rule. But Rush and his ill-informed sensationalism aside, even our government has dropped the ball when it comes to women's issues. The whole thing with Fluke started in mid-February with the all-male congressional panel on birth control, which assembled to discuss a co-pay free option for birth control coverage and a religious institution's exemption from it. Understandably, it caused quite a stir. So much so, that House Democrats Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) left the hearing in frustration. A discussion of religious liberties may be why Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) claimed to have refused Fluke a moment to testify, stating that she was "not appropriate or qualified" to do so. Was Fluke, whose uterus and ovaries qualify her to engage in a discussion about birth control, less qualified than the all-male panel that convened that morning?
So, women have taken a hit lately, mostly from the mouthy, ill-mannered, tackiness that spews from the pie hole of Rush Limbaugh. It's already making me sick that his name has been mentioned in this blog post more than the multitudes of fabulous women who deserve attention and thanks for a job well done. They are in the newspaper and in our neighborhoods. They are on the front lines and in our grocery lines. They are at our Capitol and at our Churches. They are in our schools and they are at our shelters. They are living examples and past heroines. They live in our homes, our hearts and our hopes.
We all know stories of women who have made a difference or connected with us. Hardly a single life would be the same if not for the vision and dedication of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton or Marie Curie. And what of those brave, ancient women like Mary, mother of Jesus, legendary Chinese warrior Mulan (and by far the most kick-ass Disney female character around), and Jochabed, mother of Moses, who had the good sense and faith to float that baby boy down the river in a basket and then volunteer to nurse him for the Pharoah's daughter. There is something so universally tender and powerful in that simple act.
And let's not forget the contributions and sacrifices of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Margaret Thatcher, Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride, Frida Kahlo, Oprah Winfrey, Christiane Amanpour, Betty Ford, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Melba Patillo Beals, Ella Fitzgerald, Harper Lee and the throngs of other superb examples of women making history.
But who among us would be the same without our own mothers and other women who have shaped us? I credit my mother for teaching me to be kind, strong, independent but not isolated, and to laugh in the midst of pain or joy. My step-mom has shown me strong examples of grace and faith, forgiveness and acceptance that I will always carry with me. The generosity of my Aunt Pat, and her sameness, left me different than I would have been without her. My Maw Maw, with her pragmatic, sensible sass gave me part of who I am. My sister, who is 14-years my junior, whose life experience speaks of grace and God and change that is never too late to come by.
But there are more: friends who give me love, support, grace, and themselves everyday; women, slightly older than I, who show me the way; women slightly younger than I who remind me that I am capable and have come so far; women whose struggles and successes give me cause for gratitude.
So, today, remember those women in your life who have blazed a trail before you, who accompany you on your journey and who watch you from the sidelines. We are a powerful and competent people.