Bayer on International Women’s Day – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Bayer on International Women’s Day

Professor of Women’s Studies Betty Bayer had a guest editorial  titled “International Women’s Day … Really?” published in the Finger Lakes Times, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, March 8. In the article Bayer notes differences between how the day is honored in the United States verses other countries.

“…International Women’s Day is a day first to recognize those who won certain rights and equalities for women and second to continue the tradition of making one’s voice count in what has been called the “longest revolution” – the one for women’s equality,” she concludes in the editorial.

Bayer earned her Ph.D., M.A. and B.A. in psychology from Carleton University. Serving the Colleges in the Women’s Studies Program, Bayer routinely teaches Women Studies Senior Seminar, Introduction to Women’s Studies, Peace, Research in Social Psychology and Psychology of Women. Recognized for her outstanding teaching ability, Bayer received the Colleges’ prestigious Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award in 2004 and the Community Service Award in 2009. She has served as the chair of the Women Studies Program since 2001 and directed the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men from 2002 to 2009.

Recent publications include “Wonder in a World of Struggle” (Subjectivity), and “On Cultural History as Transformation-or, What’s the Matter with Psychology Anyway?” Bayer also co-edited “Challenges to Theoretical Psychology” and “Reconstructing the Psychological Subject: Bodies, Practices and Technologies,” and has an upcoming book, titled “Threshold of Revelation: When Prophecy Fails, Psychology and Spirituality.” She has served on the editorial boards of the journals International Journal of Critical Psychology, Theory & Psychology, The History of Psychology and Psychology and Sexuality and has given dozens of conference presentations internationally.

Her complete article follows.


Finger Lakes Times
“International Women’s Day…Really?”

Betty M. Bayer • Guest Appearance • March 6, 2011

Yes, really. And, in fact, so really is there an International Women’s Day that this March 8 marks its 100th anniversary.

That’s a lot of years to hear about the day. So why, one asks, have so few people either ever heard of it or ever given the day its due? Good question, and one worth zeroing in on in upstate New York, this area we like to call the birthplace of modern feminism and the women’s rights movement for suffrage and equality in the United States.

Is it because women’s activism has gone the way of the bloomers (introduced by Geneva’s own Elizabeth Smith Miller and popularized by Amelia Bloomer), an interesting but passing fashion? Are movements for women’s rights and equality so yesteryear? Or, does this lack of attention to International Women’s Day offer telling comment on the status of questions on the conditions of women’s lives in the U.S.?

It gives one pause, doesn’t it? When I first moved to upstate in the early 1990s I anticipated a huge celebration on International Women’s Day, larger than those I had been to in Ottawa where women took to the streets wending their way amid cheers and balloons to Parliament Hill where, standing on ceremony, a list of demands was read and then on to the party (yes, on the first floor of the Centre Block with all the trimmings – food, music and dance). But here, nary a nod, not even a wink. Neglecting this day seems an irreverent act, akin to turning away from the slow but steady erosion in women’s progress or rights we are witnessing today. What does it mean, I continue to ask myself, when one after another woman asks: What is International Women’s Day? On many occasions I have offered description and reason, only to hear back, how this day would (of course) be something of more interest (or relevance) to Canadian women. Who knows the reasons behind this assumption, but whatever they are they tend to miss the whole point – March 8 is International Women’s Day not Canada’s (or any other country’s, for that matter) Women’s Day.

One imagines the surprised look on Clara Zetkin’s face on learning that what she tabled in 1910 for an International Women’s Day – a day on which women around the world would press for their demands – became instead partial to some but not all countries. In fact, International Women’s Day is an official holiday in many countries, including China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Vietnam. But not the United States, or Canada for that matter.

In this hotspot of women’s rights movements, the absence of celebrations registers as nothing but mysterious. One imagines murder mystery writers having a field day plotting the case of the missing International Women’s Day: Who killed it off and where has the body (of evidence) been buried? Tracking the clues would prove no easy task for gains in rights and equality slip and slide in and out of view – witness recent challenges to reproductive freedoms. Or, take the case of women’s wages never quite coming up to the par value of a man’s and increasing at the undetectable rate of less than a penny a year, despite countless reports on wages, economic recalculations of earnings, one after another bill proposed to create equal pay and despite women outpacing men in seeking higher education.

The list could go on and on, from the diminishing numbers of women in academic positions in higher education, the increasing absence of them in senior administrative positions in the academy, business world and highest offices of this fair land. It could extend right through to the conditions of women’s lives everyday everywhere.

This trail of evidence would lead us right back to the reasons the day was instituted 100 years ago and why today, as then, International Women’s Day is a day first to recognize those who won certain rights and equalities for women and second to continue the tradition of making one’s voice count in what has been called the “longest revolution” – the one for women’s equality.

Professor Bayer is chair of the Women’s Studies Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

International Women’s Day events
Tuesday, March 8
In Seneca Falls:

  • 10 a.m. – Gathering and introductions, Heritage Conference Center at 115 Fall St., Lower Level
  • 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Tours of women’s history sites
  • 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. – Lunch and program at the Heritage Conference Center (featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton as played by Dr. Melinda Grube) and Mayor Diana Smith For more information, call 521-3461.

In Rochester:

  • 5 p.m. – Begins outdoors at The Perkins Mansion, 494 East Avenue, Rochester. Dress warmly and arrive promptly!
  • The following events take place indoors at The Perkins Mansion:
  • 5:30 p.m. – “Social Salon with International Food”
  • 6:30 p.m. – “Time to Have Our Say: Dialogues For Change”
  • 7:15 p.m. – “Putting our Talk to Work: Action Steps”
  • 8 p.m. – “AAUW Recognizes AAUW Women Making a Difference”
  • 8:15 p.m. – “Light a Candle and Let Us Eat Cake!”

For more information, call (585)244-8890 or rochaauw@frontiernet.net