The theme for this year's International Women's Day - which should by all rights be every day - was #ChooseToChallenge, as in, "We dare you to choose to challenge the box others have put you in and systems in place that block gender equity." Many gamely accepted the dare, in this country starting with Joe Biden's signing of two executive orders to advance gender equality, including establishing a Gender Policy Council that pointedly changes the name of a former Council on Women and Girls to include trans people. Many used the day to highlight the causes they're fighting: Thousands of New York home care workers demanded the end of 24-hour shifts that only pay them for 12 in an Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign; others cited the key issue of child tax credits to recognize that, yes, raising a kid is work; women across Latin America marched and spoke out to end economic discrimination and gender-based violence that's grown worse during the pandemic, insisting, "We will not pay for this crisis with our bodies." Online posts celebrated the women who came before us - "I am because they were" - and women's achievements in everything from racial justice work to STEM fields, including aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, who came to the U.S. with $300 and no English, worked housekeeping jobs to pay for school, and served as a flight director for NASA's recent Mars Perseverance mission. The mission honored another woman of color with their Octavia Butler Landing, thus following their edict to "reach for the stars."
Because capitalism, some tributes were considerably less noble, with multiple companies rushing to make a trashy buck: Barbie emerged as Eleanor Roosevelt with a Barbie face, Hershey's replaced their chocolate wrapping but not the child labor behind it, and Burger King invited us to become Burger Queen For a Day under the dubious slogan, "Women belong in the kitchen." Given they also belong on the courts and in the streets, it's a good day to honor WNBA star Renee Montgomery, the first former player to become owner/ executive of an WNBA team when she joined two partners in buying the Atlanta Dream. In many ways her rise is "the ultimate flex." A progressive league long in the forefront of social justice activism, the WNBA's players are 80% women of color; they were among the first athletes to wear BLM gear at games, and last summer they wore Raphael Warnock shirts to the chagrin of anti-LGBTQ, white supremacist, then-owner Kelly Loeffler, who repeatedly ripped BLM for "destroying American values" and insisted "politics has no place in sports" - though, says another player who like Montgomery is black and queer, "My existence is political." It's also a good day to mourn and give thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who paved the way: "What a distance we have traveled." But not far enough. On a holiday born of bread-and-roses labor activism that's strayed far from its socialist roots, calls came for "a feminism that addresses (our) material conditions." So raise the damn minimum wage.
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The Dream helping Warnock to the Senate. Getty Image