I've been trying to make it a point to recognize International Women's Day every year for half a decade now (I seem to have missed 2008). Apparently this year is the "centenary" of the observance, and as this recent commentary (noting that we seem to care far more about Charlie Sheen's outlandish comments and drug problems than we do about his history of violence against women) indicates, there is still quite a bit of work to do.
The ongoing struggles of women to be treated as full members of humanity, worthy of the respect that men often take for granted, often seem insurmountable. This problem was highlighted for me a month ago, when commenting on Facebook about the abuses often suffered by women journalists and the need to talk about these situations lest they continue, and it was pointed out that these problems will continue to happen whether or not people talk about it. Although I pushed back then, suggesting that we can still make a difference by working to make these actions less acceptable than they currently are, the comment still bothers me--precisely because I know the other person was not entirely wrong. As he pointed out, even crimes that are considered unacceptable in civilized society happen all the time under the cover of darkness and/or anonymity.
But, for me at least (and I hope for most people), to simply accept that things are the way they are simply isn't an option. As David LaMotte points out, "you’re changing the world whether you like it or not." Far from the commonly accepted reality that most of us can't make a difference in the world, we all make differences in the world every day through the things we do and say. Family, friends, co-workers, etc., all are changed by the interactions they have with us, and naturally it works the other way around, as well. Perhaps most of us won't ever see the big, huge changes we might wish for, but those "big" changes only happen because of the "little" changes we do and that no one ever notices.
So, my challenge this International Women's Day is to pay attention to those everyday interactions. Be the person that pays attention to the fact that women still get paid less for the same work that men do. Notice when someone says something demeaning to a woman, and don't allow it to go by unchallenged. Encourage a woman to keep working toward (or in) a job that she loves, but which she may get opposition to her doing because it's often considered "a man's job."
Make the difference. Change the world.