Today – March 8 – is International Women's Day. In Russia, men wake up early to purchase flowers on International Women's Day – not just for their wives, but also for their daughters and mothers. It's also a part of the celebration to give extra compliments to women today. Bring it on, I say! And in many countries, today is a public holiday, and people don't work!
Perhaps today is a good opportunity to step back and think about the situation of women outside of the U.S. and what that means for "feminism."
Lately, American women have been in a state of frenzy over who should pay for whose birth control. Meanwhile, did anyone notice that President Karzai signed off on stricter rules for women in Afghanistan that would promote segregation of the sexes, allow husbands to beat their wives, require women to travel with a male companion, and forbid women from mingling with men in public. Now that's a war on women, if you ask me.
International Women's Day started out of a spirit of activism. In 1910, German activist Clara Zetkin proposed that the public dedicate the day to considering the political demands of women. Since 1910, in Germany, the U.S., and around the world, much has changed for women. Women demanded suffrage – and they got it. This is true for nearly every country where men are allowed to vote. One notable exception is Saudi Arabia.
Women fought for and won other important political battles in the 20th Century. In many parts of the world, property rights and access to education and work improved. Some of those fights continue today. But sadly, American "feminists" have become distracted from the international plight of women and focus instead of lobbying for bigger government and downright intrusion into the lives of successful, self-sufficient women here at home.
That's why "feminism" has become a tricky word. Feminists can repeat, "Feminism is not a dirty word," or "Feminism is not a controversial word," as many times as they wish. That doesn't change the fact that, as a young American woman, most of the women I've discussed feminism with have felt the need to qualify what kind of feminism they support (and what kind they don't). The conflation of "women's empowerment" and a libertine, cavalier sex life has left a lot of women confused – women who support equal rights but who don't support events titled "Slutwalk" for the same reason we don't like Rush Limbaugh calling someone a slut. It's bad to be one, but it's also not nice to call names. Some words you can redeem (like maybe feminism?) but other words shouldn't be redeemed (like slut). That word has a meaning, and frankly, no woman or man should aspire to that style of living.
Beyond the sexual, today's "feminist" organizations aren't any different from the liberal, big-government lobby. In this, they actually promote dependence for women (and men). In their effort to reduce the importance of the family unit (which, perhaps they view as oppressive to women), they've only replaced dependence on a husband or father with dependence on Uncle Sam. That doesn't offer women a lot of hope for controlling their own destiny.
That's why, at IWF, we constantly offer public policy solutions that put women – as individuals – in the driver's seat of their lives. Who should decide what kind of compensation you get at work? You should. Who should decide what kind of health insurance you buy? You should. Who should decide where your kids go to school? You should. Who should decide how you run your new start-up business? You should.
We've even started a monthly series to highlight "modern feminists" in the U.S. who support true equality and independence for women – including independence from government. You can check out this month's here.
And that's why at IWF, we know there's no war on women at home. The real war on women continues overseas, where some women are denied the God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. True feminists should focus their energies on protecting these rights for women in the U.S. and abroad.
Happy International Women's Day!