Saturday, March 12, 2005

Where was I...

Oh, yes, International Women's Day. (This link is for this year's sight.)

A belated "parabéns" to all of my female friends and/or readers out there. "Parabéns" is more or less portuguese for "Congratulations," which you also say for birthdays, so I would translate it as sort of a "best wishes", but maybe we are meant to congratulate women (not today -- it was on March 8th). At least within the government office where I am studying, it's a big deal -- everyone congratulated (parabénsed) all the women, the Secretary of Food Security gave flowers to all the women, and there was a "manifestação" (rally(?)) outside the prefeitura (municipal gov't) offices.

It was also interesting that the Brasileiras (as the women were the main ones discussing this, alas) traced back IWD's history to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, where on March 25, 1911 146 of the 500 workers died. Many were women, many were children. The doors to the factory had been locked (possibly for the discernably-less-but-still sinister purpose of keeping workers from leaving or taking unauthorized (any?) breaks), the fire escape led to nowhere, and broke and buckled during the fire anyhow, if I'm not mistaken the doors only opened inwards, and the firefighters were unable to reach the top floors of the building (where the fire was) with water or ladder.

While the true origin of IWD seems to lie more in the socialist organizings of some years before, starting nominally with the declaration of the Socialist Party of America in 1909, as well as with the "decision taken at [the Socialist Internation of 1910 in] Copenhagen the previous year, International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies." It is notable that the proposal of IWD was met with unanimous approval at the Socialist International, including by the first 3 Finnish women members of Parliament. (It was 16 years later in 1917 when the US had their 1st woman congressperson; 1920 when the 19th Amendment finally deigned to give women the right to vote under law (which sounds somehow still condescending -- it was given to them? It wasn't exactly a gift, you know? It is a right... but I digress). 1931 when the first woman was appointed to Senate (through her husband's death -- somewhat later she was the first woman elected to Senate... (as you may recall from reading an earlier post of mine, the US is still not exactly women in government world leader... we're beating Brasil (to use possibly inappropriate competitive terminology), at 14% women in congress, but there's around 30% in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia; 36% in Cuba; 20% in Nicaragua. A) These are all way too low b) We're way WAY too low.

End umpteenth digression. The fall of the Czar in Russia in 1917 also helped solidify IWD:
"With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for "bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went on anyway. The rest is history: Four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere."

Maybe it's simply the socialist/communist imprimatur on the day that keeps present day US-er's away from it, but JEEZ, we could use a little women's day going on, especially what with the Triangle Fire being related to IWD's history. (Raise your hand if you remember the Triangle Fire from school and/or Howard Zinn's book. Ok, raise your hand if you think more than 1/5 of your peers could say what it was in at least a vague sense. Ok, lower your hands. All several of you. I thought so.) Of course, that repugnant Republiconservative meme that by emphasizing our differences, we're exacerbating sexual/racial discord would probably dampen a present day IWD big fest in the US. This is a rant for another time, but dude -- being different isn't what causes discord -- it's disliking or fearing that difference. (Haven't the X-Men taught us anything? To me, my X-Men!)

Anyway, considering the still going-on inequality (not to mention the Larry Summers claptrap... read me argue this in Slate... or don't, that's ok... I'll try and repost it here... so keep reading here, ok?) of today, even in that great "we're number 2... or 3 or 4... after Canada and Belgium and Finland and a couple others in terms of women holding congressional office..." US of A, I'm just sayin' we could use some IWD. Nuff said.


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