When I was a child I heard boys saying that men were better than women because there were no women warriors, politicians, writers or scientists, that women were intellectually inferior than men, and that intelligent girls were necessarily less feminine than others.
That view was supported by other women, like my mother, who said that since I was too ugly to find a husband to support me financially, I had to study and get myself a job. How ironic! She was a working woman herself, and married! But her husband came first, always, my father, my stepfather, before her work, before her children, before herself.
On the other hand, my grandparents, men and women born in the beggining of the twentieth century felt differently, at least about me. They thought there was nothing I couldn´t do.
My grandfather on my mother´s side was a great admirer of Golda Meir, and instilled in me a sort of mythic love for the concept of Israel, even though he wasn´t jewish, he also admired Indira Gandhi, and I stood in awe of Mrs. Thatcher´s poise and determination.
My other grandfather did not really care about his daughters´ choices, as long as they stood by them. It was their lives, and for an ignorant man, he was very enlightened, and so was his wife, as different as they were as persons.
I loved to read, and to learn, and I understood that there were reasons why there had not been so many “important women”, and I was sure that thanks to women from previous generations, their strength, their struggle, I could do differently, and I could be free. I owed women like my grandmothers my freedom.
One of my grandmas could not divorce her husband because in her family women were either dead or widows, not divorced, it did not matter if they worked, they had to be respectable. Her husband never beat her, but was manic depressive and it was a long struggle until her younger child was old enough that she would divorce him, my grandpa committed suicide soon after. They loved each other, but it was a painful relationhip. She begged my mom to leave my father, who abused her, and gave her full support. She would do different for her children.
My other grandmother was given to my grandpa when she was 13, she was illiterate. She had 14 children, only 8 survived to adulthood. My grandfather, as lovely as he was, came and went as he want, and she could not divorce him, not only because divorce was illegal, but because she needed to keep respectability, for she kept her children washing and cleaning, and cooking for other people. She raised her 8, and her three girls did as they wanted, they studied, worked, went to college, married, chose not to marry, became powerhouses! She was a little woman with no schooling, but with a mind beyond her time.
My grandmothers changed several lives, they raised strong women and men who raised strong women in their turn, and made the changes in society something not theoretical, but real, despite the small scale.
Being a woman is not easy, and we have to assert our rights even over the most basic things, such as living and our bodies, but it is worth every effort, and we don´t need a day to celebrate that, we ought to celebrate our strength every day and make good on it.
For those who came before us and for those who will come after us.