“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
― Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
There are many, men and women who balk at this celebration. Reasons vary from those who don’t belief in putting a day aside for this rather inconsequential issue, to those who think the patriarchy is dead and buried, to those who believe we’ve lost our moral compass along the way and that somehow the feminist movement(s) has taken this journey way too far.
Myself, I think it is a good reminder of how very recent women were granted the right to vote (Canada (1917), Britain and Germany (1918), Austria and the Netherlands (1919) and the United States (1920), and considerably later in France (1944), Greece (1952), and Switzerland (1971)), and lift her head from the gaze of her oppressive counterpart. It was the 1st wave of feminism that is accredited with victories such as this. You may know of the groundbreaking influence of Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” which was hugely influential at this time. It was followed by the 2nd, 3rd and now 4th waves. Whereas the 1st wave was focused on fighting for the right to vote and coverture, the 2nd wave was more socio-political in focus, addressing equality and discrimination. Most know of the tumultuous influence of Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” as well as Betty Friedman’s “The Feminine Mystique.” The 3rd and 4th waves are in many ways more complex as it seems more a struggle to properly determine “what feminism is” and how women can seek to define themselves within the complexities of the patriarchy, and hence the intersectional forms oppression actually takes.
Sitting at my mom’s bedside table were Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” Betty Friedman’s “The Feminine Mystique,” and Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” as well as, “The Art of Sex (!!!)” She was very proud to have taken a course in Feminist Studies (I think that’s what it was called then) at Concordia University, for as a young immigrant from Greece she arrived without an education. Indeed, her only “weapon” would be her incredible beauty (she was often confused with Elizabeth Taylor!!!). So she married a successful Greek (dad 💜) and had two (AMAZING! 😉 ) kids. But she never felt beautiful, for she experienced herself as invisible; she often remarked that her life was not her own, made in her own image. Acquiring an education later in life – she was so indebted to Canada for making that possible – she became a very different person. Some might say unaccommodating, difficult, argumentative, complicated and spirited. And yet, she became a musician (a very talented guitarist) and later a music therapist. Years later in Greece she would volunteer her time at 401, using music as the medium through which she would care for those others were unwilling to. I doubt they experienced her as anything but beautiful!
So today, though mom has passed, I feel especially proud to celebrate this day, in the spirit of my mother, reminiscent of the risqué travels she’d have to take to find her voice!
In loving memory of mom – Kalliopy Leontsini Pirocacos