Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Festa Delle Donne

Today, I discovered an awesome holiday " Festa Delle Donne"

"Festa della Donna (International Women's Day) -- March 8

Before the Second World War, Women's Day had been celebrated on different days in early March in several Italian cities. In 1945, the Union of Italian Women decided to hold all celebrations and commemorations on March 8. However appropriate it would have been, they didn't have Ariadne (see website below) in mind. In fact they were memorializing two events outside of Italy: a March 8, 1857, strike by women garment workers in New York, which led to the formation two years later of the first women's union in the United States, and a strike by Russian women calling for "bread and peace" on March 8, 1917 (February 23 on the old Russian calendar but March 8 in the rest of the world.)

Authorities don't agree how or why, but the custom started in Italy -- some sources say in Rome in 1946 -- of men giving their wives, mothers, daughters, and other women friends sprigs of bright yellow Mimosa flowers on March 8. Women have since also started to give Mimosa to each other. The flowers are intended as a sign of respect for the women and also an expression of solidarity with the women in their support for oppressed women worldwide. This mild year some Mimosa trees in Rome were already in bloom at the end of January, so there may not be much left by March 8. Other yellow flowers also carry the sentiment, if you can't find Mimosa."

I love this expression of solidarity and also heart the idea of men reserving one day to publicly honor the women in their lives. It's always exciting to arrive but the journey is equally as fascinating in most cases. Some may find any celebration dedicated to any one gender sexist .But, lets keep it real - every day since the beginning of time has been "Festa Dei Uomini" ( Feast of Men). Women have had a notoriously tough time throughout history- let's recap.

* Since early times women have been respected as a source of life. However, they have been considered not only intellectually inferior to men but also a main source of temptation. Early Christian theology perpetuated these views. St. Jerome, a 4th - century Latin father of the Christian church said; " Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object"

* Women have also long been considered the weaker sex and unable to perform work requiring muscular or intellectual development. The resulting stereotype that " A woman's place is in the home" which has created a cultural pressure for women to be great wives and mothers. We all want to be great mothers and spouses but this pressure has prevented many talented women from finishing college or pursuing careers e.g. in the 60's, scholastic tests revealed achievement of girls were higher in early grades than in high school. The reason is the girls expectations declined because neither the teachers nor families expected them to prepare for a future other than motherhood.

* The myth of the inferiority in women influenced a woman's status in regarding law. Under the common law of England. an unmarried woman could own property, make a contract , or sue and be sued. But, a married woman, gave up her name , and virtually all her property under her husbands control. During the early history of the United States , a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions, In the 19th century, many laws restricted the rights of working women; laws prohibiting a woman from working more than 8 hours a day or working at night effectively prevented many women from holding jobs, particularly supervisory positions that might require over time work. Laws in states prohibiting women from lifting over 15lbs again barring women from many jobs. Discrimination in other fields persisted as well; retail stores in granting credit to married. single, or divorced women making it difficult to purchase a home or car. The Equal Pay Act was only passed in 1963....shall go on?

I can go on and on about discrimination against women in our history and how it's lead to published feminist philosophies " Declaration of The Rights of Women" and , " Woman's Bible" and the many organized women reform groups which ultimately gave us the power to vote and be treated as equals. It sometimes feel like we are still in the Dark Ages; pressure to be beautiful, thin, married, sexy, and the other labels that prevent us from being powerful. In my heart " Festa Della Donne" is a celebration for all and a reminded to cast aside labels , think freely, and live authentically. The only limitations one has is believing what you're told, rather than believing in ones self.

As a human being I empathize with anyone being discriminated against but as an African American woman - I can related. I guess that's what makes me so appreciative of this holiday.

In the words of Margret Fuller

" Individuals have unlimited capacities and when people's roles are defined according to their sex, human development was severely limited"




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