Today is International Women's Day, an interesting juxtaposition to last night's Oscar award ceremonies. Yesterday, the crème de la crème of bejewelled womanly beauty walked the red carpet in gorgeous gowns, perfectly coifed and made-up to present their radiant images to the world at large. And in a much-celebrated first, a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, won the coveted Oscars for Best Director and Best Film. (and it was so ironic that she beat out her ex-husband, James Cameron). Some women are finally coming into positions of power, at least in Hollywood.
The "ordinary" women who are the focus of International Women's Day are certainly not as glamorous as their Hollywood sisters, but are being celebrated for their accomplishments in economics, politics, and social issues, with an emphasis on what still remains to be done. This year's theme for International Women's Day is equal rights/equal opportunities so there is "progress for all." It's a noble sentiment, but women will never get the trusted positions and respect they deserve until the demeaning age-old perspective on women as commodities changes.
When men around the world feel free to abuse, beat, and basically imprison women in second-class citizenship, there are no equal rights or equal opportunities. When one out of every three women in the U.S. is abused by her partner, and one out of every six is sexually assaulted, what kind of progress can the world make towards a sustainable and peaceful future?
Women have been treated in much the same way as Mother Earth--plundered for her inner riches, abused in her receptivity. But watch out, world, as the recent spate of deadly earthquakes has shown, the feminine energy is tired of being shackled. And She is ready to throw off the oppression of the ages.
Yes, women have come a long way since the first International Women's Day a hundred years ago. And every step along the way has been important--getting the vote, getting the right to own property, getting the right to hold public office, to name just a few of the battles women have to fight for equal rights. But as Hillary Clinton said on a State Department website, "Women are still the majority of the world's poor, unhealthy, underfed, and uneducated. They rarely cause violent conflicts but too often bear their consequences." At least we can say that the plight of women has been recognized, acknowledged, and the discussion is bearing fruit--although always more slowly than we would like.
We would have to go back to pre-history or to "higher" (as in more conscious) civilizations to find cultures that honor women equally with men. As in many indigenous cultures of the past, or on an Avatar-like, life-bearing moon such as Pandora in the future, woman have been (and some day again will be) the shamans and the heads of state, offering a more compassionate sensibility to the tribe or society, caring more for the welfare of all than the wealth of the few. The pendulum is swinging back from thousands of years of a harsh patriarchy, not to be replaced by a matriarchy, but by a masculine/feminine balance that embodies the fervent hope inherent in International Women's Day for equal rights and equal opportunities.
Maybe it was Sandra Bullock's ease in her elegant gown (beauty will always bestow a certain type of power on women) or Kathryn Bigelow's articulate sentiments spilling into my awareness, but somehow today I feel a glimmer of hope for women to achieve real equality in the future. May it be so.