Brace yourself: this week marks International Women's Day. Oh boy. Could there be a more combustible mix of two things our current jingo-xeno-misogyno administration has, shall we say, issues with: borders and broads.
It's as if our country's effed-up "f" policies (foreign and female) are kinkily tangled, and Trump, in a mangled tweet perhaps, confused issues "abroad" with "a broad." Let's build walls and keep Mexicans and Muslims out while tearing down legal walls that keep right-wing zealots out of women's reproductive lives. Let's be inhospitable to hosting refugees and immigrants, the majority of whom are women and children, while proclaiming pregnant women are merely "hosts," as the Oklahoma representative who sponsored the unconstitutional spousal consent anti-abortion bill argued.
Whether it's Mother Nature under assault by efforts to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency, or moms whose access to healthcare at Planned Parenthood is threatened, or moms and dads who just want their kids to have a decent education and maybe even pediatric well-checks and immunizations, the hostility to all things maternal, sane, and humane is pretty rabid right now. I'm hoping there's reinforced pink yarn and heavy-duty stitching in our Women's March hats — that may be all that that's keeping our heads from exploding.
Here in Charleston, International Women's Day (IWD) lands ironically between Charleston Wine + Food, National Eating Disorders Week, and Charleston Fashion Week. The trifecta of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't femaleness. As a mother of three girls, I have direct experience in each part of that vortex. I'll never forget waiting in line with my 15-year-old and hundreds of tall, thin, tight-jeaned, stiletto-heeled young gals and a few chiseled males the first year she auditioned to be a fashion week model. I felt I'd failed as a feminist mom who constantly preached that appearance didn't matter; brains and heart did. And yet I was proud of her too, standing tall in her own intelligent, lovely skin, pursuing something she wanted despite her mom's snide remarks. She made it to the runway, and strutted down it in bold, strong, beauty, even as some in the audience surely sized her up by her looks.
This stuff is complicated. It's messy. In some ways, having alt-right politicians be such overt and obscene bad boys takes the onus off me, a forthright feminist and occasionally conflicted woman, who has a tendency, as many of us do, of being my own worst enemy. I stand with Dolly: "Womanhood's a difficult thing to get a grip on, unless you're a man," the primped, nipped, tucked, brilliant Ms. Parton once said.
But we've got to do more than stand up. More than march, as energizing and vitally important as it was at Brittlebank Park and in Washington, DC, and across the globe on January 21st. As important as it continues to be every Tuesday now at Lindsey Graham's office and elsewhere. The momentum is encouraging. Last month there was the biggest turn out yet for the annual "Yes I'm a Feminist" event sponsored by the College of Charleston's Women's and Gender Studies program, and a few nights later the Center for Women hosted a standing-room-only crowd for their "Pathway to Politics" program geared at prepping more women to run for office. The panel included Charleston City Council's token XX chromosome, Kathleen Wilson, who was also recently tapped to head the city's revived Commission on Women. Wilson is eager to start looking at "non-political issues, like what we can do better to help homeless women and children, and women veterans, and women and minority-owned businesses," she says, but she doesn't consider herself a feminist. "I didn't go and march in Washington and wear a costume," she says.
Sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, friends beyond borders and genitalia, we're not wearing costumes. We're embodying justice. We're embracing respect and pay equity and saying no to sexual violence and Trumpian misogyny. We're being political because the body politic is what protects the body personal.
International Women's Day organizers are calling for a Day Without Women on March 8, similar to the Day Without Immigrants, where we can all stay home and bake cookies (kidding) in a show of unity and solidarity. Like the immigrant strike, though, that means working women who already earn less than their male peers will lose precious wages. I've got another idea: let's work together for a Day Without Trump, or hell, even a day when feminism is understood for what it truly is: a day when men and women are equally welcome at the table of opportunity; a day without injustice.