The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes. – Bella Abzug
Although it seems a little premature to celebrate Women’s Equality Day since gender equality has not yet been achieved, this day is a chance to recognize the great women who fought for the rights that all women enjoy today. To celebrate this occasion, I decided to do a little research about Bella Abzug, the incredible woman who is responsible for this national holiday.
Nicknamed “Battling Bella” for her strong personality and willingness to fight tirelessly for equality, Bella Abzug was a lawyer, congresswoman and feminist activist. After being denied admittance to Harvard because they did not accept women, she earned her law degree at Columbia. She went on to serve three terms as a Congresswoman for New York, a position that allowed her to advocate for women’s rights. She played an important role in the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX and the Equal Credit Oppotunity Act, as well as the creation of this holiday.
Bella was known for her large hats and even larger personality. Her hats became an icon of the women’s liberation movement, but they were actually another one of Bella’s ways of fighting against patriarchal society. Bella explained, “I began wearing hats as a young lawyer because it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee”.
Until recently, I had no idea what the word “feminist” even meant, let alone identify myself as one. The word “feminism” held no real significance for me, and none of my friends or family considered themselves feminists. I had all the stereotypical images in my head; angry women protesting and burning bras. I believed that feminism was a movement that was important in the seventies, but had no value for a 21st century woman like myself. This all changed last year when I took a Women’s Studies class. On our first day, the professor asked us to write one page about the role our gender has played in our lives and how this has contributed to our oppression. I was a little confused by this assignment. I just stared at the empty sheet in front of me and thought to myself, “Well, I don’t really feel oppressed.” As I sat there and reflected on my life, I started to recognize all the experiences that had been influenced by my gender. I began to recognize events in my life that I had always assumed were a part of growing up, but are actually just part of growing up as a girl. These experiences began to reveal a very different picture of my life. By looking past my preconceived notions about what life is supposed to be like, I immediately started to recognize all the ways my life was determined by my gender. Everything, from the stories I read in school to images I saw in the media, created and reinforced images in my head of what a girl should be like. Without knowing it, these images influenced my decisions, both big and small.