Today is the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day. Why, you might ask, is this important to recognize? Most of you know me as an artist, photographer and writer. A few of you know that of the last 100 years I have spent more than 30 of those years actively and purposefully working towards women’s equality. I cut my feminist teeth on Dorothy Smith’s The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology in university in the late 1980’s while raising two young children as a single parent. International Women’s Day is one of my most important holidays of the year. It is a time to recognize, reflect, rejoice and recommit to making the world a better place for women and children.
One hundred years ago today women in Canada did not have the right to vote. It would be another seven years before most women over the age of 21 get the right to vote in federal elections. It wasn’t until 1960 that First Nations people received the right to vote in federal elections. Even noting these complexities, it is true, we have made gains. Yet, our fight for equality is not over and in some areas it is backsliding:
At the end of 2010, full-time working women earned only 71.3 per cent of men’s average full-time income. In the late 1980s, women earned 77 cents for every $1 a man earned.
More shocking,[ Queen’s University professor Kathleen Lahey] says, are Statistics Canada data from December 2010 show that women with university degrees now only earn 68.4 per cent of men’s average university-degree incomes, as compared with 86.8 per cent in the late 1980s.
Read more: Why Feminism Still Matters by Daphne Bramham (Vancouver Sun)
As a 52 year old feminist, activist and woman, how has the last half of the last 100 years influenced my life? Steeped in women and gender studies, waged in income for women’s equality such as women’s shelters, women centres, women’s counselling programs and women’s leadership, the answers should come easily. You might even expect that they would flow out in graceful paragraphs – eloquent after years of study and practical experience. They do not.
The blog post article I published in May 2009 “Untapped ROI – Increase Women in Leadership 13 Myths and Facts plus A-G strategies” is still as relevant in March 2011. Change is a slow process. But it is more than that. The clarity and contradictions about women’s equality are worn in layers of personal scars and successes only to then unravel again in my today – as an artist, as a feminist, as a wife, and as a woman who, for the first time five years ago, understands that sometimes financial independence is a barrier to love and mutual quality of life. I now experience the equality of a great love that, for the most part, renders gender differences invisible as two people equally work in harmony for what is best for each other and for self. Outside gender imbalances are successfully rebalanced in our day-to-day living. I have experienced nothing as powerful or leveling as deeply held human regard for another.
Today as I write this, my sweetheart is calling me to come eat the breakfast he has loving prepared. Today as I write this, I smile to myself at the involvement of my son and son-in-law with the daily tasks of parenting their children. At the same time, I remember a blog diary written last week by a woman volunteering in a health clinic where a young woman giving childbirth died on her clinic floor. She needed a cesarean delivery. The child was being born feet first. There were no such medical services available. Human life is not equally valued the world over. There is still much to do.
Today as I write this, I revisit my own struggles resulting from a history of childhood trust broken with inappropriate touching of my innocent child’s body and violence handed out by men who should have been the ones I could count to stand beside me. The details are not important. Many of us – many women and a few men – have our own experiences of being treated with less than regard and loving respect by those closest to us. We can instantly provide our own details, often with undesired vivid clarity.
Yet, as my being, my body and my spirit remind me of these passages in living, I wish better for others. I have worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to create the change I want to see in the world. Now I paint. Now I slip down by the sea and I photograph. I seek healing serenity in the bodily memories of these contradictions that we live as we celebrate the 100th International Women’s Day. My eye finds a particularly powerful reminder that we are one.
My brush strokes link us to our human vulnerability.
My work towards women’s equality is not done – it has only changed. For now.
My sister, may you have the opportunity today to give yourself a hug for being the incredible woman you are. My bother, may you know that you are an equally part of what will make a difference in the lives of the women you love.
Happy 100th International Women’s Day!
Sprout question: What woman has been your greatest creative influence?
To learn more about my work towards women’s equality visit Terrill Welch – A Woman Behind Women.
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Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.
From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada