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A day for women’s rights

‘This Thanksgiving, I’m celebrating the tenacity of women and girls’

By Carolyn Pogue

I agree with one sign that I recently saw in a woman's march: “I can’t believe I still have to protest this sh*t.” Although I celebrate that we have a woman effectively leading the government of Alberta and that women in the federal cabinet are doing such great work, I’m sick of witnessing what women, in general, have to endure in order to serve us all.

It’s infuriating to learn about the threats and vicious name-calling faced by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Conservative MP Michele Rempel, as well as others in government. But misogyny is all over the place; churches are not immune. Some ministers, who are women, put up with nonsense and disrespect, including complaints (sadly, from women, too) about their hairstyles and clothing. More recently, a friend told us that his main worry these days is about his brown-skinned, Muslim granddaughter’s personal safety. Simply put, society needs to grow up; there is work to be done to heal our fragile planet, and we need everyone’s creativity and passion to help.

This Thanksgiving, I’m especially grateful to learn about a new petition to the United Nations now circling the globe. It comes from the Belgium-based NGO, Sensibilisation à la Tolérance via l'Education Permanente — or STEP — which means “Awareness-raising of Tolerance through Lifelong Education.” Vice-President Christine Matton explains that STEP “works on various topics, such as women’s rights, to raise awareness of citizenship and values of tolerance.”

STEP wants us to shift our language to help shift our minds: “Over the past few years, March 8 [International Women’s Day] has been used as a marketing opportunity in the same vein as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day with “special discounts” on women’s underwear and household appliances.” So true.

Valentine’s Day was named for a priest who defied an emperor and was executed on Feb. 14, 273 CE. Of course, can always celebrate love on this day. But it’s also a chance to commemorate all political prisoners. (How did that all end up in a box of chocolates?)

Similarly, Mother’s Day was started by abolitionist Julia Ward Howe, who worked in a field hospital during the American Civil War. Her 1870 proclamation begins: “Arise, then, women of this day! . . . Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience . . .” How did that end up as a bouquet from the grocery store?

The Belgians’ petition argues: “. . . No one would celebrate a human being for being human on Dec. 10, Human's Rights Day! It is necessary to underline the fact that March 8 is a reminder that women's rights continue to be violated . . . equality is far from being achieved, and women continue to face gender-based discrimination daily.

“Therefore, the name given to this day is very important, and it seems necessary to ensure that it be given the appropriate name, International Day for Women’s Rights.”

Indeed, it will be a great day when “uppity women” are merely regarded as humans with brains, voice and strength. So this Thanksgiving, I’m celebrating the tenacity of women and girls who carry on in spite of all obstacles. And may we be ever-vigilant, supporting and encouraging feminists of all genders.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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