International Women’s Day Series 2018 Introduction
To celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), we at the Exponent are sharing a short series dedicated to Mormon women and women throughout the world. The theme for IWD 2018 is #PressforProgress. From the IWD 2018 website:
“With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.
And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.
So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.”
When I read this, I confess that a part of me felt defeated. 200 years away? 200 years before I can expect to be paid the same as a man? 200 years before my husband and I pay the same for a haircut? 200 years before I call a plumber and a woman shows up—because it is just as common for women to be carpenters, construction workers and plumbers, too?
But then I thought about the Euro. I remember talking about a united European currency 20 years before it happened. The nay-sayers said it was impossible—too much blood was still under the bridge between nations to share a currency. Lo and behold—it happened. Significantly sooner than some economics professionals had predicted. And the Euro—though not free from problems—has helped to economically unite nations that previously split hairs over half-pennies on the dollar.
So rather than thinking about the length of time…. I realised that progression is real. And maybe it is for me as much as it might be for my daughter’s grand-daughters.
Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.
What a great phrase! As I mulled it over in my mind, I thought of Sharon Eubank’s talk from this past general conference, Turn on Your Light. (Our brilliant blogger Em has a great lesson outline for it here). The term “Collective” struck me when in the portion where Eubank shared a story of a woman and her husband who—rather than waiting for someone else to enact a rescue, organized a collective saving effort at a beach:
“Among the onlookers on the beach was Jessica Mae Simmons. Her husband had the idea to form a human chain. They shouted at people on the beach to help them, and dozens of people linked arms and marched into the ocean. Jessica wrote, “To see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers [was] absolutely amazing to see!!” An 80-person chain stretched toward the [distressed] swimmers….
“Once that human chain was stretching toward the swimmers, she knew she could help. Jessica Mae said, “I can hold my breath … and go around an Olympic pool with ease! [I knew how to get out of a rip current.] I knew I could get [each swimmer] to the human chain.”7 She and her husband grabbed boogie boards and swam down the chain until they and another rescuer reached the swimmers, and then they ferried them one by one back to the chain, who passed them to the safety of the beach. Jessica had a distinct skill: she knew how to swim against a rip current.”
Some of us have distinct skills in organizing efforts to progress women within the church, as detailed in the stories of women in the book Women at Church. Others are gifted at collective efforts in working to help refugees, progressing American suffrage, and organizing groups for equality such as LDS WAVE. As Mormon women, we have a history of pressing for progress. This makes me proud!
Further in this speech, Eubank quoted Spencer W. Kimball—noting that his talk that she quoted “was only the second time the women of the global Church had met in their own general meeting.” Progress! Having an official general women’s meeting is progress, no matter how small. In addition, Eubank was the first speaker at this past general conference. Having confirmed that the General Women’s Session is indeed a part of General Conference, the first speaker has the power of setting the tone for the entire conference. In considering this, with International Women’s Day, I loved this section of her speech:
“Innovation and creation are spiritual gifts. When we keep our covenants, it may make us different from others in our culture and society, but it gives us access to inspiration so we can think of different solutions, different approaches, and different applications. We aren’t always going to fit in with the world, but being different in positive ways can be a lifeline to others who are struggling.”
“We aren’t always going to fit in”- this phrase made me giggle a little. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I “fit in” anywhere! But I think that my not “fitting in” has at times been a beacon – not being in a clique at church has made me a safe source for those who are struggling. They can talk to me without fear that I am going to spread information about their struggles to anyone else. I also try to be warm and loving to those who do not fit the LDS mould—the investigators with purple hair, then “less-actives” who smoke. But also not being in a clique in my community has been helpful- I have been invited to serve because people knew they could rely on me without prejudice. In these situations, I have been honoured to help, and been filled with the spirit as I did things that might have little or no thanks (but to be honest, I felt like the non-Mormons always were much more generous in expressing gratitude). Thus, I joyfully own the fact that “Innovation and creation are spiritual gifts” that don’t rely on me “fitting in.”
To be fair, it has been my disappointed personal experience that the wards and branches where I have lived have not acknowledged IWD. I don’t think this is unusual, either because it falls so close to the anniversary of the establishment of the Relief Society, or because the male leaders in the Mormon congregations I attend are unaware of how important it is to recognise and celebrate the progression of women globally. But lest I feel sorry for myself, I am encouraged by the recommendation of the IWD 2018 organization:
“International Women’s Day belongs to all communities everywhere – governments, companies, charities, educational institutions, networks, associations, the media and more. Whether through a global conference, community gathering, classroom lesson or dinner table conversation – everyone can play a purposeful part in pressing for gender parity.”
The day yet belongs to me. No one can take it away. The day also belongs to you. No matter if you have a girls’ night out at a pub or restaurant (no judgement for Taco Bell—budgeting is real and powerful!), attend a formal lecture, make a donation to a women’s organization such as Mormon Women for Ethical Government with a global service focus, or even make a donation to our beloved Exponent blog and magazine that gifts the world with Relief Society, Young Women and Visiting Teaching lesson outlines in addition to being a safe place to share women’s voices. You might buy a copy of Women of Faith in the Latter Days, or better yet, a copy of At The Pulpit or another book we are reviewing later as a part of this series. You might also read and ponder any of the posts here at the Exponent, or have a quiet dinner at home while listening to only the women’s speakers at General Conference. The choices really are endless!
It is your day to celebrate women. It is a day when we rejoice in the progress we have made, and strive for better gender parity, setting the example for our daughters and granddaughters to not give up hope. Thus, I wish all within the Exponent community to have a wonderful day of peace and celebration for International Women’s Day. I also offer my earnest thanks to all who participate in progressing women and to all who celebrated IWD in various ways. I also whole-heartedly welcome you to savour this series with a warm heart.
Female friendship and felicitations!