My maternal grandmother was a stay-at-home mom and later went back to college when my mom and her brother were grown to become a teacher. She was one of the first teacher's at my church’s preschool.
My Nana did not need to work. She went back to school and began her career as an educator, because it was something she always wanted to do. My Nana was the one who taught me who Susan B Anthony was and who encouraged me endlessly to read good books, write poems, sit up straight so I did not get a humpback, to become an architect (or not. She was always putting a book in my hand. I think she knew I was destined for words not buildings), to learn about art and history, to navigate public transportation and to continue my education in any way that I could.
My Nana died my sophomore year of college, before I had the chance to ask her how long she dreamt of going back to school and if becoming a teacher was what she really wanted or if she made this choice because it was an acceptable route to getting a higher education.
I think of my Nana every International Women’s Day. There is so much I would have asked her. And there is so much I am grateful for learning from her—she taught me that you can be all the things: a cook, a mom, a baker, an artist and also have a career.
I texted a friend today that I am not so much into International Women's Day and not to tell anyone, lest I am scorned by women everywhere.
I know you might be rolling your eyes at me. The thing is my social feeds are filled with amazing women whom I love and adore. They inspire me every day just by loving me and by the wonderful things they do in their own homes, in their careers and in their communities.
But my feed isn’t filled by the amazing women that I don’t know—the ones who may live in a country where girls and women have been oppressed since the beginning of time and cannot even actually get a job or a basic education of any kind. These are women who are destined to poverty simply because of their gender and geography. Sometimes that country is here, right where we live, maybe just across the highway.
For this International Women’s Day, I “choose to challenge” my place of privilege and to work harder to educate my children—my daughters and my son—on the deep, painful and oppressive inequities that exist outside of our privileged bubble.
I don’t need my daughters to worry about making less money than a man in their management positions—yes that is really freaking unfair and frustrating. And yes, they will certainly face gender inequities and glass ceilings and some level of sexual harassment. I am not saying they need to put up with those things—but I am saying they come from a place that allows they to address these things without fear of losing everything. They are privileged and that privilege offers them protection that other women don’t have.
I need my daughters and my son to care about the other girls—who might not even have an opportunity to work to feed their families or who face harassment at their low paying job without any recourse to protest or change their destiny.
Yes, women’s voices need to be heard. Boardrooms and Zoom calls need to be filled with women leaders. but, those issues, to me at least, do not feel as urgent as the woman who is trying to feed her children and working 12 hours days making clothes in a factory.
Or the woman working three jobs for low wages in Camden and does not have a dollar or a minute to access healthcare for herself.
Those stories are urgent. Those stories are the ones who inspire to learn more and think more about how I can choose to challenge my children to make the world safer and more equitable for women everywhere.
I found this really interesting organization called HERProject that I want to spend some time getting to know. It is a collaborative initiative that strives to empower low-income women working in global supply chains—the women who make the clothing I am so privileged to buy. You can read more about HERProject here.