For the past 43 years, this day, March 8th, has been recognized as International Women’s Day. I have been alive for the past 40 years, and though I may have had a vague knowledge that the day existed, it was, embarrassingly, only last year that I realized that this whole day was a “thing.”
If last year’s International Women’s Day was colored by an event, or word, or phrase, it was “nevertheless, she persisted,” in reference to the February 2017 event between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. For those who don’t remember or who were intentionally burying their head under rocks from November of 2016 to the present, the phrase originated after Senate Republicans invoked a little-known rule to silence Warren’s critique of Attorney General nominee, Jeff Sessions and McConnell then offered an explanation: “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Those last three words became a rallying cry for women everywhere. We were fresh off the Women’s March in January after an election that, regardless of political affiliation, felt like a setback for women. There was an invitation to name one’s experience as a woman. The artist Courtney Privett drew an image of a woman standing—her back to the viewer—looking a background of speech-bubbles filled with messages that women hear on a constant basis. The speech bubbles ranged from the condescending, “May I speak to the man of the house?” “You’d be so much prettier if you wore make-up” to the outright offensive, “whore.” “Slut.”
Privett was inspired by her young daughters and her desire to see them grow up without having to hear these same phrases. Her intent was to r”emind women that they are not alone.”
This year, the undergirding phrase of International Women’s Day is the clearest articulation that we are indeed not alone, even in the worst scenarios when the thought bubbles pop and turn into physical assault, violation, and abuse. That simple phrase is “Me too.” The “Me Too” movement has brought women together to say enough is enough. Through hearing each other’s stories we’ve been empowered to share our own and the world is listening. Today, women across the globe—from Manila to Myanmar, Seoul to Spain—took to the streets to march for the fair and equitable treatment of women in all spheres of life.
This year feels different. After having shared one of my own “Me too” stories in this blog, I experienced the power of telling the truth and experienced the great honor of hearing more stories as a result. They were stories that broke my heart as I listened. But, I could feel and see in the telling, that a burden was lifted. Those shared stories would now have less potential to break the heart of the victim by the heavy weight of secrecy and shame.
For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful. While I’m sure it will not be a pothole-free road for my 11-year-old daughter, because these women spoke up and are now saying that “time’s up,” the environments she will find herself in of work, school, church, entertainment, sports, and all of the other realms she inhabits, will be safer places…places that are committed to human flourishing and healthy cultures.
On this International Women’s Day, I’m profoundly grateful for all of the women who came before me. Women who fought to make sure I could go to school, vote, become whatever I wanted to be: doctor, lawyer, CEO, even preacher. I’m inspired by my peers—the women of today who had the courage to tell their stories, demand change, and in the process, cause predatory and violent men to be removed from positions of power. But most of all, I’m profoundly hopeful for the future—for the Parkland teens who march against guns, for the young girl who made a “sit with me” app to help the school lunchroom not be the hellacious place it can be for young people, for my daughter and her friends who aren’t content with injustice and lame explanations for its causes and have become the most pointed and profound question-askers. I have no doubt that this next generation will manifest the words of Beyonce in unimaginable ways and we will be able to answer the question “Who runs the world?” with a resounding “GIRLS!” and actually mean it.