March 8th was International Women’s Day. In fact, this month marks the 100th anniversary of the international feminist celebration initiated by Clara Zetkin, a socialist German politician who took the last name of her Russian lover, eventually married a fellow eighteen years younger than herself and became an executive member of the Comintern.
Well, I don’t suppose many of us women have much in common with her. What does the feminist legacy of Zetkin and others mean to females in my generation?
Throughout my girlhood, I viewed feminism as a sort of lingering ball and chain more than a movement to be proud of. It was something that commanded girls to be in perpetual competition with men whether we wanted to be or not. The presence of feminism was like a ghostly matriarch frowning over me with disappointment in even the subtlest matters.
When I casually wore my favorite denim skirt or floral print dress, I encountered interrogation from observers: “Why do you like to wear 18th century clothes?” “What cult are you a member of?” “Why do you always wear dresses?”
Those are real questions – I didn’t make any of them up. What I began to realize, much to my distaste, is that dresses with hemlines past the knees are subliminally perceived as prison garbs from days gone by. Liberal feminism fought to emancipate women from dresses, from kitchens, from homes and from babies. To embrace any of those things is to disrespect the goddesses of women’s rights.
But colloquialism aside, there are no such things as “women’s rights”. There are only human rights…
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