The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
This piece originally ran as a Strategies for Sisterhood Success item in Women of Reform Judaism's Weekly Digest newsletter.
On Thursday, March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. The history of this celebration is surprisingly radical: the first occurrence was on February 28, 1909, in New York. Established by a Jewish labor and women’s rights activist, the day was created to recognize women’s contributions and promote women’s suffrage within the Socialist Party of America. This has since spread throughout the world with the guidance of the United Nations.
The UN has selected different themes each year, and this year, it has chosen “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.” With movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, it is the time for women to mobilize using the fearless power of their voices. Our own community coined the term #GamAni to expose instances of sexual harassment and violence within Jewish institutions. Our own women spoke out, starting with our open letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in relation to the rights of sexual assault survivors in school. This continued with #UsToo, a compilation of selected comments that women added to the over 650 signatures collected.
While likely not the intention of the organizers, there is a clear connection between the day’s origins and this year’s iteration. As the #MeToo movement has reminded us, sexual harassment remains a huge obstacle for working women. Women will never be able to fully participate in the workforce until they can go to work without fear of sexual harassment and retribution for seeking redress. With full participation in the workforce comes economic independence, a prerequisite to equal membership in society. By placing the #MeToo movement into the context of women’s centuries-long struggle for economic and social equality, we can celebrate International Women’s Day not as a one-off event, but rather as a historically significant day for re-invigoration.
As you look for ways to celebrate International Women’s Day this year, here are a few ideas for action: