International Women’s Day is March 8th and began in 1911. This global celebration honors the political, social, economical, and cultural achievements of women. It is also a day of action: to support women-owned businesses and female-focused charities, to continue to rally for world-wide gender equality.
As a woman myself, this day is important to me. I see friends and family post pictures of women in their life and the girls they are raising to honor this day. There are words of encouragement, empowerment, and appreciation. I look at these with joy in my heart for the wonderful women in my feed and the intentionality of how they are lifting up and encouraging their daughters for a bright future. But, in all honesty, I feel a bit left out, too. I live in a house full of men. My family unit is myself, my husband, and four young sons. It got me thinking: how can my sons celebrate International Women’s Day?
One of the best ways for my family to be intentional in our support of women is to read about them…lots of them, all the time! My boys need to see all kinds of diverse, strong, hardworking, empathetic girls and women in the literature they read. It is important my sons read about girls building, creating, dreaming, and standing up for what’s right. They need to see women characters following their passions, inventing, playing, seeing the world and problem-solving to make it better. The sharing of women’s stories, both historical and current, local and global, can be best heard sitting on my lap with a fantastic book between us.
Women’s literature opens dialogue. Just the other night, as we were curled up reading Water Princess by Susan Verde, Peter Reynolds, and Georgie Badiel about Badiel having to fetch water for her family, my son asked me why he only saw women and girls doing the walking, fetching, and carrying of water? What an important conversation to begin to tell the stories of females around the world. If not for that book, we may have never arrived at an important topic authentically. Books bring teachable moments, room for deep questions, open doors to global issues. Through the stories of women like Dr. Mae Jemison, Josephine Baker, Susan B. Anthony, Malala Yousifai, and Elizabeth Blackwell, my sons see the same traits displayed through these women that I want for each of them, as their mother: loyalty, determination, curiosity, perseverance, kindness.
Check out a wonderful women’s picture book list from The Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children here.
Through Activities & Reflection
Another way to honor International Women’s Day is through some activities with my sons. One thing I’m going to do is to have each of my boys think of a wise woman they know. This may be a great grandparent, a grandma, or even me (wink). Next, they will ask these women to answer some questions such as: Who was a hero in your life? What do you remember most about being a little girl? How have people in your life shown they love and support you? Then, my sons will hear those stories, connect to those stories.
Also, my children can look inward. Each of my boys could do some reflecting, through words and/or drawings, about how they lift up girls and women. How do they help? How do they encourage? These little men can take a hard look at what makes a good friend, partner, teammate. How are they putting those things into practice in their real life towards their classmates and peers?
Additionally, as a family, we can do the work, together, to make sure we are not subscribing to or perpetuating tight gender roles or stereotypes. You will never hear us refer to anything be it a color, toy, sport, or activity, as a ‘boy thing’ or a ‘girl thing.’ My husband and I work hard to show our sons a partnership where we share responsibilities and harness our strengths within our family unit. Ultimately, we as parents cannot control the images or language used by the outside world that may continue gender division, but we can control the narrative within our own home.
Through Service & Support
Finally, my house full of men can celebrate International Women’s Day by lifting up women and girls both locally and globally through service and support. We will research and learn about women-focused charities and give our time, talents, and treasure as we are able. One example charity whose focus is to give girls around the world access to quality education is “WomanOne.” Another, “The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing,” is a wonderful local organization. They aim to help women reach their full potential through help with health, safety, finances, and employment. Also, we support women-owned businesses within our local community to show support. Look to buy a next outfit, birthday cake, or takeout meal from a small business run by women! Aiding women within our own community and around the world is a great way to help make International Women’s Day last all year.
I realized that International Women’s Day is pretty important in my house, too, even though it is full of males. The women of our future are going to need allies. The women of the future are going to need friends and partners. Those allies, friends, and partners will be my four sons. They can encourage, cheerlead, support, and share in the success and dreams of the females in their life. Through books, activities, reflection, service, and support, International Women’s Day can be alive in my home, honored in my home. International Women’s Day needs all of us to celebrate.
To learn more about International Women’s Day, visit their website here.