International Women’s Day: Perspective on Change.

When I was a Senior in college, majoring in Political Communication and Campaign Management I wrote my thesis on the 1970s ERA Campaign. (For those of you that have no idea what I am talking about when I say ERA please educate yourself here. Cliff’s notes version: Equal Rights Amendment was a Constitutional Amendment proposed in 1923 to grant women equal rights under the law. In 1972 the ERA died in Congress after being ratified by only 35 of the 38 required states).

I immersed myself in feminist culture. I volunteered for NOW, I was a member of the Association for Women Student’s at Emerson. I had posters of Gloria Steinem on my wall and I listened to Ani Di Franco and Liz Phair. I had the opportunity to meet amazingly influential women like Maya Angelou, Sarah Ragle Weddington and even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. If I could have had a Women’s Studies minor at Emerson, I would have. I was all about women power. I distinctly remember being shocked that the ERA never passed and equal rights for women made a Constitutional right. Yet at the same time I was almost apathetic about it, it was the early 90s and women presumably had it all. We were being elected to office in record numbers thanks to organizations like Emily’s List, birth control was safe and accessible and it was possible for us to become doctor’s lawyers and CEOs. We didn’t really need the ERA….did we?

This morning I read an article from Elephantjournal.com: Take Off Your Fake (Face). It was a simple little article about not using makeup riddled with chemicals to hide your radiance. I am one of those women that just doesn’t bother with make-up 90% of the time. The other 10% I may remember to add mascara and a little blush, but almost never a full face. I wish I could say that my lack of makeup is a conscious, eco-health choice but in reality, it’s not a conscious choice. Half the time I am in a rush to get to the next meeting, yoga class, appointment, whatever and realize when I look in the rearview mirror of my car that my face is naked. It’s just not high on my priority list. I don’t think it’s simply because I’m married, I’ve always been that way. This former tom-boy, Adirondack Mountain girl just can’t be bothered.

The article then links to pictures on Daily News, Stars Without Makeup: The Real Face of Fame. I of course clicked through to Daily News to see the photos. The photos of stars in that link were filled with comments like:

she “Looks a little tired..”

she “looks like she needs a day off from filming”

She’s “little too busy to put on some concealer?”

She “Looks more washed out than rocking out”

“Scarier with or without makeup?”

“Dancing with the Stars does a body, not a face good”

She “looks a hot mess sans eyeliner.”

“why so glum? is it because you got caught bare – and red – faced?”

She “should really ditch that large coffee and hit her bed instead.”

As I scrolled through them (all 92 of them) I began to feel/see/notice 2 things; first, disparaging comments about women are given nonchalantly, the media is downright mean and second, I began to start feeling badly about myself. Was I just lazy or indifferent about my appearance because I don’t wear makeup? Am I less than feminine because I don’t get my hair, nails, toes done regularly? Is there something wrong with me? Daily News sure made me think so.

Isn’t it amazing that an entertainment news/celebrity gossip site can make this seemingly confident, non-celebrity feel like crap? If a one-dimensional website can make someone feel this, what happens in our everyday interactions with real, live people? Are we as women, supporting one another, or are we tearing each other down? Are we celebrating our differences, rejoicing in our similarities? What are we doing to make life better for one another?

This past week my Facebook feed was filled with “Happy International Women’s Day!” posts. MindBodyGreen and Elephant Journal had articles about “Mean Girls” and “Don’t Judge a Yogi by their Pose.” It’s nice that a designated day can provoke such thoughtful articles, but it shouldn’t take a designated day for this. As women we can’t just sit by as our perfectly manicured nails click to the next article about being a better person. This is something we need to work on every single day. It’s 2012, we’re in an economic, political and social recession and things need to change. It starts with kindness, it starts with compassion. It starts with you.

This blog isn’t a call to action to revive the ERA (though I DO thing that should be done!). It IS a call to action to women everywhere to let go of our labels and realize that we are all divine beings. The labels and titles we “wear” are not who we truly are.

It’s time for us to INspire Peace, Practice Compassion and Choose Gratitude.

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