Campus was buzzing with events celebrating women the week of March 8. Activities ranged from a traditional European tea night produced by the international student council on March 4, to a Utah Women’s Leadership event on March 7. However, in a non-academic or political setting, this holiday is almost unheard of. Without boxes of chocolates or old men sliding down chimneys to garner interest — or at the very least, a day off from work — International Women’s Day goes largely uncelebrated in America.
This isn’t the case around the world, as several different speakers at the European tea night talked about the different ways the holiday is celebrated in their countries. Ludovica Giusti, a communications major and 2016 Miss United Nations, talked about the “mimosa” flower and how it is a common present given on International Women’s day in Italy. Other students talked about the various traditions their countries celebrate as well.
International women’s day is not only a chance to celebrate the amazing women in your life, but also an opportunity to challenge traditional ideals of womanhood. Given the predominant religion in Utah, stay-at-home mothers tend to be lauded in Utah county as the highest form of womanhood. On the other side, people considered to be “feminists” seem to revere women whose ambitions are career-oriented. People tend to see these two stereotypes as mutually exclusive, with no room to breathe in between. To advocate for one form of womanhood is taken as an attack on another. However, being a woman is not nearly so simple as either being a mother or a lawyer. Supporting one does not mean tearing down another.
In a society where what a “woman” should be is constantly prescribed to women, anything outside of that norm is stigmatized and vilified as unfitting “for a woman.” The notion that there is anything that is “unwomanly” to begin with is ludicrous. If a woman does it, it is womanly. If a woman finds joy in focusing all her attention on raising her children, that is womanly. If a woman enjoys weight-lifting, that is womanly. If a woman doesn’t like children and wants to focus her energies on academic or business pursuits, that is womanly. All these life paths are equally legitimate, and all should be celebrated. Women aren’t here to have you tell them what it looks like to be a woman — they can, and should, do whatever it is they want to.