Column: Feminists don’t have to wear each other’s underwear

International Women’s Day is March 8.

Would someone please roll over and hit the snooze alarm?

This is not to suggest International Women’s Day isn’t worth getting out of bed for. But like so many other days appearing on the calendar in red, it carries an expectation that women need to do something.

To the point, while living in southwestern Ontario and publishing a daily newspaper in Woodstock, I became part of Zonta.

Zonta is a fine organization, advocating and fundraising to improve the lives of girls and women.

It’s international, with over 29,000 members in 63 countries. (This is surprising because no one ever seems to have heard of it).

While formed more than 100 years ago as a service club for professional women, it also welcomes male members. (This is surprising because no one ever seems to have heard of one.)

In our city Zonta undertook many initiatives, and they were divided between fundraisers for women overseas, and women locally.

For example, our club furnished a room for breast cancer patients at the city hospital. It also supported medical clinics on the other side of the globe.

One of our most interesting projects was the assembly of simple birth kits.

They didn’t cost a lot to put together – really were just a needle, thread, soap, gauze and alcohol wipes sealed in a plastic baggy. We shipped thousands out every year, to countries where women are 400 times more likely to die in childbirth than they are here in the Great White North.

Despite my admiration for the women in our community who drove these efforts, we did not always agree.

And that’s okay. There are all different kinds of feminists, and we can have unity without wearing each other’s underwear.

International Women’s Day was one of the issues on which I dissented, albeit quietly. That means I didn’t storm out and refuse to participate, I just sighed a lot and rolled my eyes.

The day – recognized as 24 hours to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and demand action for accelerating women’s equality – is always March 8.

In Woodstock we manifested these objectives by hosting a breakfast in a hotel basement and hiring a guest speaker.

We were also encouraged to wear yellow.

Yellow. Only 1.5 out of 1,000 women look smashing in yellow. The rest of us resemble day-old daffodils, or look like we suffer from some kind of organ dysfunction.

The breakfast started at 7 a.m. Zonta members had to show up before that to get everything ready. That meant waking up on the morning of International Women’s Day at 5, skipping the gym, and sleepwalking through the scrambled eggs, the speeches and announcements, and the presentation of dozens of yellow roses.

I also fell out gracefully with the rest of Zonta over chocolate.

One of our most successful fundraisers was the annual Christmas chocolate sale. We sold high-end, to-die-for chocolates. Funds from this initiative were earmarked especially for overseas programs in poverty stricken countries.

At one of my first Zonta meetings I pointed out this delicious chocolate likely originated on the Ivory Coast, where children are torn from their families and enslaved to pick cocoa. Maybe we could sell something else? Candy canes? Advent calendars? Ethically produced chocolate?

A lot of super, great women sighed, and rolled their eyes.

We’ve been doing it for years and people love this chocolate, they chorused.

It wasn’t worth fighting about.

As a feminist it’s not enough to support just women who share your own views, feed your own narratives and vote for the same party.

One needs to support the voices of all women.

I’m going to for sure do that on March 8.

But first I’m going to hit the snooze alarm.

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