It’s another day for most women in the world: breakfast is cooked, diapers are changed, fields are tended, computers switched on, patients treated, students taught, and houses cleaned.
In the distance, groups of men thump the drums of war. They talk of the cleansing power of explosives stuffed into a car. They anonymously rain missiles from the sky. They order their soldiers to shoot their own citizens to retain their boney grip of power.
Closer to home, there are still far too many men who believe it is their right to hit a woman. Or if not exactly their right, they say it was an unfortunate outcome of a temper that is a bit out of control, a bad day at the office, or a bit too much to drink.
There are still far too many men who feel that the difficult, glorious, exhausting, and exhilarating work of raising our children is, somehow, not our work, too. And, who also believe they deserve to have someone cook for them and clean for them as if they were a helpless child or a king.
There are still men who don’t see how our governments, our economies, and our places of worship will benefit from the equal leadership of women.
There are too many men who oppose women’s reproductive rights and control over their own bodies.
There are men who believe that women in the workplace or on the streets are open targets for their jokes, whistles, comments, and proposals.
There are too many men who still don’t understand the simplest of words: No.
On this day, March 8, International Women’s Day, there seems to be more than the normal disconnect between the lives and experiences of women and the lives and experiences of men. For nowadays, women are challenging this blind exercise of power, whether meted out in the battlefield, at the office, or in the home.
As much as any single thing, the past forty years have been shaped by the courage of countless women and girls. In only one or two generations, unequal social relationships and ideas of womanhood and manhood that date back seven, eight thousand years have been swept aside. No corner of the globe is untouched. No institution is immune.
And at last, an increasing number of men are responding to the urgent and impassioned voices of women. We are challenging our own assumptions about what it means to be men. We are reshaping our relationships with children. We are thinking about our words and behaviour.
We are building a new bond with women, one based not on domination but on shared responsibilities, respect, and love.
I cannot speak on behalf of any other man, but I know I have millions of brothers who share these words: To the women and girls around the world who continue to inspire us, happy International Women’s Day!Michael Kaufman
First published March 8, 2011, republished March 8, 2012