There are more than 25,000,000 hits on Google related to International Women’s Day (IWD). This may not be a very reliable measure of how far women have come since March 8th was declared as IWD in 1975, but it does show the importance of women’s issues in society today.
I haven’t reviewed all of those hits, but I’m pretty sure some are supportive of women’s issues and some are not. Celebrating being a woman is complex. Some women celebrate womanhood and women’s accomplishments easily, but others are uncomfortable. Historically, women who tout their own virtues are viewed as arrogant, militant, overly feminist or just difficult. Women are often portrayed as competing with one another – who is a better mother, who has had more professional success, who is kinder, thinner, prettier, and the list goes on. IWD gives women and girls the opportunity to move beyond those stereotypes and truly appreciate the accomplishments of women in a generous and supportive way. What a remarkable and welcome change!
This year, the theme for IWD is “Be Bold For Change”. As a woman who grew up with only sisters and as the mother of a young girl, I have mixed feelings about being bold. I used to be scolded for “being too bold” when I spoke my mind. Now, we encourage boldness. What a remarkable and welcome change!
When I think of bold, influential women today, some names spring instantly to mind – Beverley McLachlin, the longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario; Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian female astronaut launched into space; Barbara Frum, a famous journalist, not to mention the celebrities who increasingly influence the lives of young women and girls in Canada – Celine Dion, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morissette, and Rachel McAdams.
Some other bold women to honour: Nellie McClung, who was instrumental in recognizing women as persons; Charlotte Whitton, who was elected in Ottawa in 1951 as the first mayor of a major metropolitan area in Canada; Joanne Liu – a 49 year old pediatric emergency physician from Quebec who is the International President of Doctors Without Borders; Kirstine Stewart, Twitter’s Vice President of North American media; well-known Kingstonian Alia Hogben, Executive Director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and holder of an Honorary Doctorate from Queen’s University School of Divinity and the Order of Canada; Angela James – the first Canadian woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Once you start to look, the number of bold, influential Canadian women seems endless, and the variety of their backgrounds is astonishing. Canada has become a country that encourages bold women. We have a lot to celebrate. Canadian women need to continue this rich history of boldness. Today – International Women’s Day – is a day for us to stand together, support one another, and proclaim it is great to be bold for change. What a remarkable and welcome change!