March brings us a wealth of data on women and March 8th is International Women’s Day. Your (Wo)Man in Washington observed the occasion by attending an economic briefing on the struggle of women of color to achieve financial stability. By noon, she was crossing Memorial Bridge from Arlington National Cemetary to the Lincoln Memorial with other advocates, protesting sexual violence in Congo and other regions of conflict. In 18 other countries, 130 other bridges were crossed by women for the very same reason. As clear as the sharp spring air over the Potomac River today is the truth we all live, that women’s issues are human rights issues; women’s issues are global issues.
Mothers in the United States are 82.8 million strong. By the age of 44, 80% of women have given birth. Women have more high school dipolomas, more college degrees, and make up more than half of all college students in the US. Yet, men outearn us, by a margin of 20%. If you have children, you (at least statistically speaking) make less money than a man with children, or than a woman with no children. A mommy tax? You bet! Women occupy only 17% of the seats in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Elections in Iraq, where they are still counting the votes, are guaranteed to produce 25% female legislators. At least by the measure of political representation, Iraqi women have more to cheer about today.
A proverb from the Cheyenne Nation goes something like this – A nation is never defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Using rape as a weapon of war is calculated to do just that. But there must be a corollary that is equally true. A nation can never reach its ultimate potential if the hearts of its women cannot beat strongly, loudly, and to their full capacity. International Women’s Day reminds us that in the US and elsewhere, women still have a long way to go.