March 8, 2017
Day Without a Woman & Why Does It Matter?
Today we celebrate ourselves, women and all gender-oppressed people of every background, race, nationality, immigration status, age or disability, religion, sexual identity, gender expression and economic status.
On January 21st over 5 million U.S. demonstrators joined the Women's March worldwide (with over 1 million in D.C.) to make our voices heard. But it's not over. We stand united today in solidarity, marking March 8th, A Day Without a Woman, to speak against inequity and injustice, and for the human rights of women.
The first International Women's Day took place in 1911 in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and Austria (according to the International Women's Day website). On March 8th we reflect on the courageous acts of ordinary women, who have played and continue to play an extraordinary role to eradicate the inequities that continue to plague women today: receiving lower wages, discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity (to name a few).
Why does it matter? The Economist's Glass Ceiling Index, a metric that demonstrates where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work, categorized the U.S. as below average in significant areas, when compared to 28 other countries. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) performs an international biannual analysis of the economic trend to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people. The U.S., when compared to other countries, was below the OECD average on wage gap equity, child care cost, paid maternity leave and women employed in parliament and government; and barely above average on gender equality for higher education. Although the OECD has shown improvements in gender equity on an international scale, Finland scoring the highest among 28 countries, the wage gap continues to widen, furthering the notion that there is much work to be done. This is among other women's rights issues that have stemmed from the current administration, further jeopardizing our reproductive rights: the defunding of Planned Parenthood and overturning Roe v. Wade.
Join us today, united in love and in the spirit of liberation by doing one or all of the following:
- Women take the day off from (un)paid labor
- Avoid shopping for one day (unless from women- or minority-owned businesses)
- Wear red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman
Today, we close the doors to discrimination, gender injustice and all acts of oppression. Women's rights are human rights.
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Many would agree that one of the greatest African American legends of our time would be our esteemed former and first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama. Serena Williams, often called the greatest tennis player of all time. Entertainer and musical artist, Beyoncé, known for her massively successful career, winner of 21 Grammy Awards. African American writer and journalist, winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the James Baldwin of our generation. The number of legendary figures is abundant: Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Rep. John Lewis, Marcus Garvey, the list continues.
What about the legends of our past, the pioneers before our time? Some firsts:
Dorothy Dandridge, first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award, during the 1950s, a time of great segregation.
Jesse Owens, a four-time Olympic gold medalist at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; today the Jesse Owens Award is regarded as USA Track and Field's highest honor.
Adventurists, such as Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn an international pilot's license, in 1921. She was recognized for her daring stunts in air shows performed around the world, while refusing to be slowed down by racism.
Mae Jemison, an American physician and NASA astronaut known for being the first black woman to travel in space.
First African American surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, MD.
Vivian Pinn, first African American woman chair of an academic pathology department, at Howard University College of Medicine, and the first full-time director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health.
Novelist, essayist and playwright James Baldwin. A Harlem native who remains the best of his time, capturing with truth and unique articulation the social injustice and inequality that remains tangible today, more than a decade preceding the Civil Rights Act, publishing "Go Tell It on the Mountain" in 1953.
The civil rights activists who refused to accept the cruel act of inhumanity, slavery and injustice: Dred Scott (1795-1858); Nat Turner (1800-1831); Harriet Tubman (1822-1913); Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).
The history of our African American pioneers encompasses great intellects of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, influential historian, writer and scholar, the first African American to earn a PhD from Harvard, in 1909.
In medicine, we have Drs. James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a medical degree, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American woman physician. And what about our own pioneers in medicine, graduates of our legacy school Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania: Drs. Rebecca J. Cole (1846 - 1922), the second African American woman to receive an MD; Matilda Arabella Evans (1872 - 1935), the first African American woman licensed to practice in South Carolina; and Virginia M. Alexander (1900 - 1949), who founded a community health clinic in her home.
Always keep in mind: We cannot fully understand who we are, and in its entirety where we are going, unless we understand the richness of our history.
Lidyvez Sawyer, MPH
Director, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Drexel University College of Medicine