Reflections on International Women’s Day and Beyond

Today’s post is fom Eliana Zimet, a fellow with Repair the World: Philadelphia.

International Women’s Day is, according to their website, “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” Personally, I love celebrating women and their accomplishments every day, but it’s nice to have some time set aside when everyone is doing it.

Repair the World decided to celebrate with a themed Beit Midrash, and a group of Fellows and friends gathered to do some Chevruta learning with a collection of Jewish and secular texts, songs, Tumblr posts, and videos. Covering everything from Beyonce to female inventors to transphobia, great conversations were had by all, and I feel grateful to have learned from and with the women (and men) who joined us.

My Chevruta partner and I had some particularly great conversations, and while analyzing the racial disparities in the suffragette movement (I had no idea that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her crew actively fought against women of color receiving the right to vote) she reminded me that we’ve come a long way–a longer way than I tend to remember.

Of course, just because we’ve come so far doesn’t mean that we can stop now. So, as we move on to 365 days that aren’t marked for celebrating women around the world, what steps can we take to ensure that we’re bringing the spirit of this day into our lives on a regular basis? Here are a few of my suggestions:

Become better allies to women of color and trans women. International Women’s Day is meant to celebrate all women and create a platform for global women’s equality, and we cannot accomplish that goal while marginalizing people of color, trans people, and gender nonconforming individuals. We need to work to build community and support those who are marginalized both within our Jewish community and in our larger community of women. For some tips on being a better white ally look here, and to be a better trans ally look here.

Read more books by women. I read far too many books by white men in college, and now that I’m able to choose my reading materials myself I’m diversifying my bookshelf. Check out this list of books by women to get some ideas. Or, ask a few friends what their favorite books are. Not only is that a great way to pick up some new reads, it’s also a chance to learn a little bit more about that person.

And most importantly, support the women in your life. Be quick to compliment them on their strength, intelligence, wit, creativity, and passion. Respect every woman’s choice to do what she wants with her body and time. Cut back on gossiping, and cut everyone a little more slack. Too often it feels like the world is pitted against women (and it is), so having a supportive sphere of women in one’s life can be a game changer.

Let’s make 2016 our year.