For over a century, women (and men!) around the world have commemorated International Women's Day every year on March 8. But tomorrow, for arguably the first time since the early 1900s, we will finally pay homage to the day’s long-lost roots: women in the workplace.
Originally called the "International Working Women's Day," women across America first rallied in 1909 to demand the right to vote and protest employment sex discrimination.
Eleven years later, women would win one of those battles.
Over a century later, we are still fighting the other.
Weirdly, even though most reasonable people would agree that gender-based discrimination is still a pervasive issue, I’ve recently encountered a handful of feminists—feminists!—who insist that women have achieved “relative equality" in the workplace.
Relative to what, you may ask? To the patriarchy, of course!
“First of all, it’s time to stop calling the United States a patriarchy,” writes feminist philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers in the Washington Post.
“A patriarchy,” she says, “is a system where men hold the power and women do not. Women do hold power in the United States — they lead major universities and giant corporations, write influential books, serve as state and federal judges and even manage winning presidential campaigns. American women, especially college-educated women, are the freest and most self-determining in human history. Why pretend otherwise?”
Full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Sommers. In this case, however, I cannot agree with her—obviously.
While she is right to say that American women enjoy more freedoms than many women in other countries around the world, that does not disprove that we Yankee broads enjoy significantly fewer freedoms our male counterparts.
Consider, for instance, the January 2017 S&P 500 list, which shows that women currently hold 29 (5.8 percent) of CEO positions at those same 500 companies.
FIVE POINT EIGHT PERCENT.
To put that in perspective, the famously tasteless Special K "diet" bar has 16.4 percent fat. If we can all agree that amount of fat is "negligible," then certainly we can agree that America's female executive representation is similarly negligible, at best; and tastelessly lacking, at worst.
Sure, that's a straw-man argument, but it made you think, did it not? Nevertheless, I can’t blame you if you’re still unconvinced, in which case, how about we take a closer look at all those “free” and “self-determined” female authors Sommers also mentioned.
According to the most recent, gender-focused literary survey, the number of women published in one of America's oldest and most respected magazines, The Atlantic, dropped to 30 percent in 2015. Men, meanwhile, took home a greater share of the literary pie, garnering a whopping 70 percent of all bylines.
More recently, the New York Times March 2017 Fiction Best Seller list includes just three women authors among its top ten.
And who could forget the U.S. Congress, of which women comprise just 19 percent of its 535 members. According to the World Bank, that's a smaller proportion of legislative seats held by women than in countries like Saudi Arabia (20 percent), Iraq (27 percent) or Bolivia (53 percent).
Telling American women to be satisfied with the “progress” we’ve made compared to other women around the world is—first of all—misguided. Second of all, even if the data proved American women were far ahead of women in stereotypically “third-world” countries like Bolivia, that’d still be like telling your five-year-old niece (who's probably named something insufferably millennial like Lux) to suck it up and be happy when she finds a pound of coal in her stocking on Christmas morning.
“Jeez, LUX. At least you have a roof over your head and food on the table! Think of all the less fortunate children who got nothing from Santa! Nothing! You thankless ingrate!”
And that's why, tomorrow, we must support all the metaphorical Luxes by joining the history-making Day Without Women:
A Day Without a Woman, [recognizes] the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system--while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity… Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:
1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor.
2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman.
By winning the right to vote nearly one decade after the inaugural International Women’s Day, our foremothers demonstrated the invaluable power of assembly for generations of women to come. More than a century later, the time is now ours to pick up the torch and finish what they started.
Tomorrow is ours to demand real workplace gender equality.