What International Women’s Day Means to Me

Photo Source: Fashion Enter (2013)

Up until 2013, I did not know there was an International Women’s Day. On March 8, 2013, I was invited to a “party” to celebrate the day. I put party in quotations because I was in Afghanistan at the time on my last deployment with the U.S. Army. The ironic part of it was the party was being held by the Afghan National Army Sergeant Major for the unit that was on the base I was on. Yes! You read that correctly. A man, from a country that has very strict rules on women and policing gender, was hosting a party to celebrate, a probably Western created day, women. There were only four of us on this base. Out of over 200+ men on a base the size of a community college, there were four women. Two of them were cooks and the other two were my interpreter and me. We were warmly welcomed, given scarves so we could wear them (we were a no-hat/no-salute base), and take pictures with the many men that came over from the Afghan side of the base. The first thing I thought when I was invited was 1) What are we celebrating?! And 2) Who is hosting?! I was in complete shock to hear that there was a women’s day and that it was being celebrated in a country where women were completely controlled.

In all honesty after that day, I forgot there was an International Women’s Day until two years ago. On my current campus, as I am sure with most college and university campuses, there is a month of events to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. It wasn’t until I was in an organization (mostly full of men) and in a leadership position that I realized the importance of celebrating the day and especially the month. It is not that we need a month or day to actually celebrate how women are great, but it is to remind those around us that we are great, we contribute, and we are an essential part of history; this is the same with the other months where we celebrate other cultures and peoples.

This month I have the privilege to participate in a panel on my campus that will highlight female leadership. When I was invited it was a shock, but it also gave me a confidence boost, because I hadn’t felt like a proper leader since being out. I have been measuring my success as a leader within my organization based on numbers instead of what people have seen as a result of what I have done. This invitation and to find out who nominated me for a school-wide award (because they have seen what I have done and what I have tried contributed) has warmed my heart. My organization is also hosting a social hour for women who are connected to the military, whether they served, are family members, or support those women. It has been a dream of mine to do one of these socials, so the veteran and military community on my campus is more connected.                           

February and so far in March has been a good and bad time. I have been struggling with stress and rejection, but I have also tried to grow as an individual. I am hoping to keep this up until I graduate and go off to grad school.

So, your mission today is to tell the women, female-identifying, and gender non-conforming individuals in your life that you appreciate them, you see them, and you are there for them. Be the best ally you can be.

Stay beautiful!

Michele

My playlist for today: