March 8th. As a woman, it feels good to have a day of celebrating our worth and value in the world, to be recognized for our contributions, and frankly, to be seen at all. As a straight white woman, I am aware that by accident of birth I am at the top of the unspoken female power hierarchy that patriarchy imposes on us all. My experiences of sexism and misogyny will never compare to the added insults heaped on women of color, non-binary women and trans women. There are so many layers of invisibility and unwarranted hatred in the world to acknowledge and heal, that it is heart-breaking.
To all women I want to say, “I see you. I value you. YOU are important and your voices NEED to be shared.” PLEASE speak up, speak out. Even if it is only to your own family and friends, to your sons and daughters, to your churches, clubs and groups; don’t remain silent. Silence is acquiescence and that shit has got to stop.
Yet, I understand why it is there.
For all women, the threat of death for stepping outside social norms isn’t ancient history. The witch trials are a wide spread, historically documented campaign against women’s rights, women’s intelligence, women’s wisdom, and women as women. But violence and death for being female isn’t history — not yet. It’s contemporary.
It’s in our homes, in our relationships and in our lives.
Every time someone tells a woman that she’s “too much” or needs to “be good”.
Every time a group hears a woman’s idea, ignores it, then hears a man speak it and applauds it.
Every time a man catcalls, objectifies, or belittles a woman.
Every time a woman’s “no” in any form is ignored, disrespected or dismissed.
Every time a woman is hit, raped, or killed.
Every time a young girl is told how she needs to dress in order to protect herself from the boys.
Every time a young girl is told how she needs to act so that the boys will like her, and not be intimidated by her.
Every time a woman is called a “bitch” for being direct, or hysterical for showing genuine emotion.
These, and more, are all examples of how women are taught to be afraid of being a woman in a toxic patriarchy.
This is why International Women’s Day exists:
…to celebrate SO much that the fear of being silenced that’s reverberating in our DNA is obliterated.
…to celebrate SO much that the patriarchal fear of losing control that’s reverberating in men’s DNA is obliterated.
…to celebrate SO much, that we all re-discover the beauty, grace, and real power of coming together in honor of ALL our strengths is all that is remembered.
…to celebrate SO much that our own healing is spontaneous and generational trauma ends with us.
Which means, we need to celebrate EVERY day, not just today.
Today though, is also very personal for me.
Today, is my re-birth day. It’s the 6th anniversary of claiming my own identity.
Six years ago today, I walked out of a courthouse in Portland, OR with a certificate showing my new last name was official and legal as of that day. It’d been quite a process to get there.
I’d divorced almost four years earlier but had kept my married name. Although only married once, it was the fourth last name I’d had up to that point in my life. I didn’t want to go back to any of my maiden names because I didn’t want to claim any of them as being a part of me. They were parts of my past that had shaped me, but none of them represented me.
I wanted to claim a name that represented me; who I felt I was and who I felt I was becoming. When I divorced, I didn’t yet know what that might be, so I gave myself the time I needed to figure it out.
I have always felt an affinity for the Rising Phoenix, so occasionally I’d play with words associated with the phoenix but none seemed to fit. Months would pass and I’d circle back with the new perspectives I’d gained from life, but still nothing fit.
In late 2012 however, I circled back again. This time, I asked a new question. What about the myth was it that I was truly drawn to? Was it the fire? The renewal? The bird itself?
It was the act of rising. No matter what kind of hell-fire reduced it to ashes, the phoenix will always rise — stronger and more powerful than before.
Rising. The moment that word passed through my thoughts, I knew it was the me that I was claiming. Yes, I sat with it for a while. Then, I shared the idea with others, more so that it didn’t come as a surprise when I took action, but also to hear myself say it out loud and feel how the sound of it reverberated through me and off my tongue.
The process of legally changing one’s name can take a couple of months. I had no way of knowing on what day it might become final. That was in the court’s hands and based on their schedule.
On March 8, 2013, I walked out of the courthouse with my certificate in hand, and got onto Facebook to share the good news with my friends. The first thing that popped up in my feed was the International Women’s Day logo. It was the first time I’d heard of International Women’s Day and my first thought was, “How perfect! Let’s celebrate!”
I intend to keep celebrating, but not just on one day, and not just in the form of a party. The act of celebrating women must become a daily act of intentional becoming.
So, I’m asking:
…how shall we continue to celebrate ourselves — and each other — EVERY day and in EVERY way for the gifts that we have to offer?
…how shall we lift each other up, support each other, help each other remember who we truly are when the world around us would silence us with words, actions and inactions?
Here are a few thoughts I had:
Write down a list of friends to call; soul sisters you know who have your back and know you have theirs.
Write down a list of allies; brothers willing to listen, hold space, and be an example of healthy masculinity in your life; who support you in standing up for yourself and who will stand up for you if you need them to.
Write down a list of gifts you have to share from your authentic self, and share them no matter what. Let the haters hate, but keep sharing.
You exist therefore you are a miracle worthy of celebrating. Not everyone will see it, but their blindness has no relationship to the truth of who you are. Always remember your truth and surround yourself with others who can see it even more clearly than you can.