Last year on International Women’s Day I was in Derry, exploring the murals that were off the beaten path. I found many honoring the women of the area – including one that was painted in honor of International Women’s day itself. I find that looking through my pictures of them now is just as inspiring as it was then, and I think sharing my favorites on both sides of the puddle is especially powerful on today of all days.
In the north of Ireland there are a lot of murals depicting women, and their historic role in the struggles for recognition and identity. These are my favorites in the region.
I like them because they not only depict the various roles that women have played throughout Irish history, but they honor them. There is a difference and it is a very important one.
When talking about equality it is also incredibly important to honor my hometown of Oakland, California, as it is one of the hearts of the modern American protest movement and the birthplace of the Black Panthers. Women comprised the majority of the Panthers organization and they fed school children, started medical clinics, gathered donations, gave passionate speeches, boosted recruitment, led chapters across the country, and fought right along side the men in every way. These were taken last month here in Oakland’s museum at the exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movement.
There are many similarities between the civil rights movements here in America and in the north of Ireland. The north learned from the struggles and mistakes that were made here in the US and both movements suffered innumerable atrocities in each country. I am lucky to have my heart in both places and am able to draw inspiration from where I currently live and from where I want to be. On this side of the puddle, we have fewer long-term political murals, however we have a lot of street art and sculpture. This can range from mere beauty to more subtle political messages and in your face graffiti. Some of my favorites are right here in the Bay Area.
The San Francisco Women’s building pictured above was the first female owned and operated building for women in the state. It remains that way to this day and provides important services for everyone. It will be ever more important as the discrimination we face grows under this regressive and repressive administration.
Today in Dublin, women are marching to repeal Ireland’s eighth amendment. Here in the United States, women are striking to stop the attack on their freedom of choice as well. We are making our voices heard in both countries to address inequality and to protest our dwindling rights to freedom, health, and independence. Please join us, not to humor us but to honor and support us. Be allies and stand up, not because we need protection, but because we need acceptance and to be seen as equals and as individuals. We’ve been fighting this fight for hundreds of years and for every step we’ve taken, we’ve been shoved further back. We are not mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives, or aunts. We are women who are equals and compatriots regardless of relation, and should be treated as such on this and every day.
I’ve said before that I don’t believe in a “day” of anything. Minds can’t change in a day. Even if you spent that whole 24 hours locked up with every book on a subject you could ask for, you would not learn enough in a day. So this year, use International Women’s Day like most use New Year’s Day. Make a resolution and a goal. Change minds around you and then change the world. It’s time to stop protecting women or disparaging them when they stand on their own two feet with an agenda. Spend the next year learning, respecting and loving. As the saying goes, Be the change you want to see in the world.