International Women’s Day spurs societal reflection at GBHS

Holiday exclusively celebrating women can also be used to remind many of continual oppression

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Special to the Gazette photo/SARAH KONDAS

International Women’s Day shines light on the successes and achievements of women around the world.

There has rarely been a time where the inequalities of the sexes hasn’t been prevalent. But the historical inequalities have shown only slow improvement in the contemporary society we reside in. 

Despite this reality, International Women’s Day has remained a holiday to celebrate the successes, achievements and history of women world-wide. The event takes place on March 8 and is a positive way for women internationally to recognize and support each other. 

“I think it’s a lot about women empowerment and equality and kind of showing our face and saying ‘Hey here we are,’” Granite Bay High School’s Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography teacher Kathleen Angelone said. “We don’t want things to continue the way they are continuing, so it’s a way for women to be heard, I think, in large numbers because it is world-wide.”

Since the beginning of the 19th century, IWD has tried to consistently offer a reminder that the hardships and challenges women face never fully go away, and then show how women have adapted to an ever-growing and changing society. On the internationalwomensday.com website, you can see a timeline of major events spanning from the Industrial Revolution all the way to today, revealing that IWD adapts – allowing women to come together over great feats of time. 

While IWD seems like it would be a major holiday, some women said they don’t think the celebration gets enough attention.

“I wish we paid more attention to it,” AP Literature and English Language Development teacher Christy Honeycutt said. “When we have students come here from other countries like Mexico for example, in Mexico they celebrate Dia de la Mujer, which is the day of the woman. It’s like a big deal, and it’s something they acknowledge, whereas I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone in the United States say ‘Happy International Women’s Day.’ ”

“It’s (IWD) not like a broadcast, super-well announced thing as much as it could be,” Angelone said. “It could be definitely advertised more, encouraging more people to do more.” 

Some critics have questioned the validity of the IWD celebration in the United States because of the overall lack of representation and acknowledgment. Among the questions? How can such a well-off and educated country have a shortage of powerful women residing in government and high level positions?

“We are one of the only fully developed nations that’s never had a woman in a presidential role,” International Baccalaureate World Religions teacher David Tastor said. “England has, Pakistan has, Germany has, India has, … I mean here we are in 2020 and we don’t have that.”

IWD, to those who acknowledge it and celebrate it, reveals the injustices and the facts of men and women not receiving equal treatment. This issue is what gave birth to feminism, the movement directly tied to IWD and the current power that drives it. 

“Feminism is important because it’s common sense,” Angelone said. “There’s no reason why women should be treated differently, or paid less, or thought as less significant than men. In fact it should be the opposite.”

There’s no reason why women should be treated differently, or paid less, or thought as less significant than men. In fact it should be the opposite.”

— Kathleen Angelone

Changing preconceived thoughts and notions isn’t easy, but it’s necessary in order to completely rid society of inequality between the genders. What starts as small actions leads to much bigger and more impactful changes in the future. 

For Tastor, inequality and the demeaning oppression of women can even become apparent in classrooms.

“I think as a male, recognizing our role in feminism, not speaking for women when they have something to say, not assuming their understanding but listening and allowing opportunities for a voice to be heard,” can mutually benefit men and women, especially in a classroom environment, he said.

Many educators have begun the process of slowly integrating feminist ideals into their ciriculum as a way to combat sexism. 

“I cover gender inequality in my class extensively,” Angelone said. “I know my students get (education about feminism) from me, but it’s not like they’re going to get it from like a math class or something. So if there is a way to incorporate (feminism) as a school-wide thing, I think that would be better. We need to fill in the hole of where students aren’t getting that information.” 

Education regarding feminism in the school environment seems like it would be beneficial, but concerns are arising from those who believe educating students and others about feminism should remain optional.

“I believe we can educate people more about feminism, but not force it on people that don’t want to learn about it,” senior Ean Mayhew said. “It should be their own will to want to learn about feminism.”

The challenges for women are not over yet. In 2018, women made 82 cents to every dollar earned by a man,  according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Female employment in the science, technology, engineering and math fields has declined since 1990, according to the U.S. Department of Labor blog. Finally, women make up just 5.4 percent of fortune 500 chief executive officers, according to Inequality.org.

“It’s a proven fact that women will make less over their lifetime.” Tastor said. “It shouldn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t have to be in a society where women are automatically financially dinged.” 

Inequality is not going to vanish overnight – it will take time and patience and cause many to go against what they believe. International Women’s Day, albeit a holiday, should remind many that the difficulties women face are far from over. 

“What women are capable of,” Angelone said, “is pretty dang impressive.”

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