Sometimes, words just don’t cut it.
I was struggling with the idea of putting something in this space recognizing International Women’s Day, but how in the world do you put into words what mothers, sisters, daughters, all of your female cohorts, dear friends, mentors, partners in life or mischief, mean to you?
How do you explain the feeling of being a father and always reciting your daughter that shiny anthem that she can grow up to be anything she wants, with the gnawing suspicion that in reality, she may not always be given an even chance?
I was going to give up, and about then a social media post from Ashley [Hammen] Hoff flashed onto my screen. You’ve read about Ashley in our pages before - the Storm Lake native and St. Mary’s grad possesses a beautiful heart and has carved out a successful career in TV and film production in L.A.
Her posts are often a red-carpet glimpse beyond the scenes of Oscars, Emmys and Hollywood glamor, as well as tireless appeals to the sweeter side of our humanity, ever smile worthy. But this one was from NYC, a whole country away from her stomping grounds, so it caught my eye.
It was a statue of a little girl - I thought immediately of our three little bronze sweethearts on the lakeshore near Chautauqua Park. You’ve probably seen it by now - a Wall Street firm put up the little statue to mark the day, just across from the famous bull monument in all of its snorting, muscular, investment-banking Manhattan masculinity.
The spritely three-foot-tall girl is defiant, hands on her hips, pony tail flipping in the breeze, not to be taken lightly.
“To every woman who has felt the feeling this statue represents, thank you and to the women who will feel it in the future - stand tall, strong, proud, and determined,” Ashley says. “Anyone can do anything if you are simply brave enough to stand up and try.”
International Women’s Day was marked in many places with “A Day Without a Woman” demonstrations. Around Storm Lake, a few stayed home from work to illustrate their gender’s value, others donned red to show their support. One of my friends went to work in a Cinderella outfit, for reasons I’ve yet to quite grasp.
Whatever the means of expression, the message is one that isn’t just for girls.
Because when fathers tell their daughters they can be anything they want to be, there shouldn’t have to be a nagging “but…” attached.
They shouldn’t have to tell them that they can be, but that they probably won’t be paid as much as the guy doing the similar work. Or that some people around them won’t give them the same weight and respect. Or that some numbskull is always going to say of their achievements, “She’s really good, for a woman.”
Fatherly advice shouldn’t have to be accompanied with a whistle or a key ring with a sharp point for when they are victimized on an isolated campus path or felt up on a bus. And how does a dad explain to a girl that in this day and age, there are still places where women are treated as little more than property?
Then again, we could talk here until we’re blue in the face and not change much. I’m not sure demonstrations or a missed day of work changes anyone, either.
I think the statue says it all. The unshakeable gaze, facing challenge headfirst - bring it on.
They plan to keep it up for only a month. No way - come on New Yorkers, guard her with your lives. (Though frankly, a metal symbol is just that - how we treat and value the women in our lives and our world on a daily basis is what matters.)
Every girl should have a chance to grow into a strong woman with the opportunity to go as far as her talents take her, and then there will be no need for “A Day Without a Woman.”
If this day was any indication, women are in no mood to put up with any more of the bull.