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By ERIKA K. DAVIS
Since its inception in the early 1900s in Europe and the late 1970s in the US, International Women’s Day has taken a back seat to larger, more popular holidays. But it’s taken a back seat to even the most inane ones, too. How do we know the anniversary of Pacman and Thomas Edison’s Birthday without knowing about Women’s Day? One word: Google.
Google changes their logo for almost anything, but in the past few years, March 8 has come and gone without so much as a nod from The Google. This is not to slam Google, it is my understanding that because today marks the holiday’s 100th anniversary, they do plan on changing their header. What does it say, though, that we need a Google header to realize it’s Women’s Day? Surely I should have learned this in my all-girls Catholic high school.
It is common to give gifts and flowers to women on March 8th around the world and in certain countries, Women’s Day is a national holiday that entitles women to a day off of work. But in the United States, while other newer holidays like Earth Day are woven into the academic school year and publicized in advertisements on subways, buses, and media, Women’s Day has remained largely unnoticed.
I polled some of my friends and a few strangers for an unscientific look at what Women’s Day means to some people. The answers were varied: “Never heard of it” and “Why do we need days like Black History, LGBTQ, Women’s days when we should all be appreciated and honored every day for who and what we are” and “I wish I could say that it meant more, but it doesn’t.”
It’s not hard to understand the lack of celebration around Women’s Day in the United States when we consider the ongoing assault on women’s rights as a whole in our country. You cannot open up the newspaper, turn on the news or open your Facebook feed without hearing of continued political attempts to revoke, amend, and regulate our rights. We’re being assaulted in government as well as in our schools and on the streets. From the now removed billboard attack on African American women in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood in September to the continued fight for federal funding for Planned Parenthood, to a Georgia state representative’s attempt to redefine the word ‘rape’, in the United States, women’s rights are under seige.
In the United States and around the world women are treated as second class citizens right off the bat. Add other variables like race, religion, ethnicity, disability, weight, sexual orientation and a woman’s rank in society goes down yet a notch further. But serious progress has been made, and movements like the anti-street harassment movement prove that we are changing. In the words of a friend, our country is ripe for a revolution. So who is ready to take that stand?
I’ve often lamented that I wish that I had the gall of our foremothers who walked out of garment districts demanding better pay. I wish I’d been there as we demanded our rights to vote, demanded the rights for contraception, and won the right to choose. I look at pictures of women of varying ethnic groups standing shoulder to shoulder in black and white stills of the marches on Washington and wonder if this generation is ready to make the same amount of real noise as those women. Not just Internet and Facebook noise but real Noise. Burning your bra Noise, mega phone Noise, in your face NOISE! The Women’s Movement may have ended but if we aren’t celebrating Women’s Day in a big way nationally, the fight is not over.
Erika K. Davis is the writer and founder of Black, Gay, and Jewish and lives in New York City.
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I was a teenage at the time, 13 years old, and walking down the beach with a girl friend of the same age when we saw a man on a sand dune. He wore boots and a t-shirt, and nothing else, with an erection visible from where we stood. My friend went white, I don’t know what went into my mind but instead of fear I felt a weird kind of anger, more like stubborness than fury. And as that guy strutted down the dune staring at us I screamed at him: ‘Pathetic!’
The guy stopped. I think it must have been the first time he ever had a victim rebel. By that time I was wound up and continued screaming things like ‘ridiculous’ and ‘minuscule’, my friend took heart and started screaming and laughing hysterically with me. The guy turned heel and ran back up to disappear behind the dune. I learned later that he had been terrorizing girls for months.
My first holla, and my first lesson in dealing with sexual harassers. If you let them get away with it they win. That was years ago but I still hold it true.
When I was 15, my friend and I were walking along the beautiful downtown area of Hoboken, NJ in the summer of ’04. We had just left dinner and were making our way toward the train station to go home. As we walked past the McDonald’s on the corner of Washington & 3rd, two men who had been leaning against the building talking to each other approached us. They looked to be about 30. They struck up a conversation with us, and then asked if we would like to join them for dinner. We said no, thanks. Then they asked if we would go back to their apartment which was right down the road in Jersey City. They even threw in that they had an indoor pool. At this point I was way creeped out by them, so I just nudged my friend and was like, “Let’s get out of here.” But she didn’t seem too threatened. And then they asked us, “Do you girls want to make $1500 each tonight? If you come back to our apartment to hang out for a little, we’ll give you $1500 each. You can make that kind of money in a night if you start hanging around us.” Finally I grabbed my friend’s arm and pulled her away and we started walking really fast. They followed quickly behind us. I panicked and decided to make a huge scene to get everyone’s attention so that they would leave us alone. I started yelling obscenities and was like: “THESE MEN ARE TRYING TO KIDNAP US!” Passersby paused and looked at us, and the men immediately darted off. We ran to the train station and hopped on the next train home.
I think that what surprised me most about this experience was not that these two men were trying to take advantage of two young girls– but that nobody really seemed concerned enough to do a damn thing about it.
This man is a regular at my pub, and at first he seemed a nice bloke, albeit, a bit weird. But soon he would male inappropriate comments, and ask the barmaids for their numbers. One girl left her phone on the bar, and he grabbed it and phoned himself from it, so he had her number. Up until a certain incident, he would phone her 2 times a month to make sure she had kept the number. I came into work on a Sunday, in a very nice top, black, lowcut and pirate-esk. I turned around to find him holding his phone up, licking his lips and clearly taking a picture. I called him on it, and to show me he’d deleted it. When he made to put the phone back in his pocket, and ignore me, I grabbed it off him, and threw it on the floor and smashed it. He left, and neither of us had mentioned it since. But 3 days ago, an ex-barmaid told me he had been caught taking pictures of female customers and barmaids he’s terrorized in the past. So I decided to take his picture and post it on Hollaback. He’s a pervert, but he’s far from harmless. Creep. So if you live in the chew valley, and you like a pint, you will recognise this old pervert.
Once when I was 12, I was standing outside of our public library, waiting for my mother to pick me up, when I saw a man walk by. I’d seen him before, and he’d always sort of looked at me funny, so I just sort of ignored him and made sure to stay where I was. He was tall, dark haired, had a bit of a beard, and wore black clothes, as if he thought he was trying to be Johnny Cash with the color scheme he had going. That day, however, when he walked by he gave me this strange grin and winked at me, and made a sort of kissing noise at me. I don’t know if he thought he was being funny, impressive, or obnoxious, or perhaps something else altogether. But, he certainly was being inappropriate. I was a child, and he was a middle-aged man. I was too afraid to tell my mother what happened, but I made sure never to be alone when I saw that man around town, again.
When I was a very little girl, probably around 7 or 8, I remember going over to play with my friend M. Her street wasn’t the nicest street, nor the nicest neighborhood, and so we stayed in her yard. But, there was a group of teenage boys, perhaps closer to men than boys, who kept hollering at us. M and I totally ignored them, although we did sort of keep an eye on them to know where they were. They were acting very aggressive. Later that day, when my mother and grandmother came to pick me up, those men were so brazen that they started yelling again when my mother, grandmother, and I went by in the truck! One of them, a tall and lean man with dark hair, said quite clearly, “Come here a minute, I wanna moon ya!” I remember that clearly to this day. Especially since my mother said later that, when used in that particular context, it didn’t mean mooning someone like you’d moon them from your car. It meant that they wanted to make a baby with you. It disturbed me greatly, but I was glad to have the information. Not realizing what that had meant, when they said it to me once before that day, I had almost thought of going over to them to give them a piece of my mind. Knowing what they really meant by the phrase, I was a lot more aware of the need to stay away from strangers, especially loud and obnoxious ones.
When I was around 21, I took a trip with a couple of friends out of town to visit a couple of museums. We parked the car close to the art museum we were going to go to first, and once we were done there, we walked to the second museum. It was a bit of a jaunt, but not too much. On our way back from there, a few hours later, we were crossing the street at the crosswalk, to get back to the parking area where our car was located, while cars were stopped at a red light. We were about halfway across when an older man — with his wife in the seat next to him, I suppose, if that’s who she was — honked his horn at us quickly when we were passing in front of his car. It startled us, and we jumped. He seemed to find this hilarious and laughed out loud with a huge belly laugh. One of my friends flipped him off, but he didn’t seem to notice. I don’t really remember the expression of the woman next to him, or if she even had an expression over it at all. The man was still laughing by the time we had finished crossing the street and were a bit down the sidewalk. I could hear him as he started to drive off.
When I was a child, I don’t quite remember how old, but I think around 13, I was walking home from the grocery store with my mother, and it was late evening. While we were on a neighborhood street, there was a car that came by several times, honked their horn at us, yelled something at us that I don’t remember, and then laughed when I jumped. Which I did every time. It was probably my first encounter with something like this and it left me feeling scared and confused.
I was walking with my stepfather along Washington street when I was 17, back in the summer of 2003. Out of the blue this car with a group of teenage boys went by, honking their horn as obnoxiously as possible, and one of them rolled down his window, leaned out from the back seat, and had on some sort of Halloween costume after the Scream serial killer, and screamed at me as they drove passed. They made a point to do this three or four more times, as well. The screaming, if he was speaking actual words, seemed unintelligible. But, it was obvious that he, and his buddies, thought he was hilarious and impressive.