International Women’s Day: Your Voice Is a Human Right

The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.

Gloria Steinem

 

As I write this, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. What is International Women’s Day? International Women’s Day began in New York City in 1908 when 15,000 women demonstrated for equal rights, including higher pay and the right to vote.

 

To vote = to have a voice.

 

International Women’s Day has since become a global call for gender parity, a day when people worldwide raise their voices in support of women’s rights as human rights.

 

Vote. Voice. Human rights. This got me to thinking:

 

Your voice is a human right.

 

Your voice is your birthright. The you you were born to be. As Bill Roorbach says, “To have a voice is to have a self, and to have a self is powerful” (one of my favorite quotes!).

 

Your writing, of course, is your gateway to your voice. It is through the act of writing—your writing—that you return to your wise self again and again to discover (or remember) who you are, what you know, and who you are becoming.

 

Another way to put this is that writing takes you beneath the bullshit, i.e., internalized fear, to the wellspring of your own truth.

 

Your voice, then, is the truth of who you are. Your authentic self. As such, your voice holds within it the power to change the world.

 

In honor of International Women’s Day I spent some time this morning reflecting on the power of women’s voices to change the world. I thought about how many women writers have changed my life, from famous writers to obscure writers to the students in my Writing Women’s Lives™ classes and mentoring programs.

 

And as I was reflecting, Lit Hub’s “33 Life-Changing Books in Honor of International Women’s Day: A Reading List from the Staff at VIDA” came across my desk and I thought: Yes. Now there’s a way to honor women writers who have gone against the grain of silence; women who have changed the world with their voice.

 

Some of my favorite books are on this list and some books I have not yet read. Other books that have changed my life are not on the list.

 

My favorite book on the list is Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I first read in my twenties, when I was coming into my own feminist awareness.

 

How did The Bluest Eye change my life? Pecola Breedlove’s experience as a young black woman opened my eyes to the intersection of internalized sexism and internalized racism. I, a young white woman, felt Pecola’s story and as a result began to consider my white identity for the first time. Morrison’s book opened my eyes and my heart.

 

One of the books on the list that I have not yet read but have been meaning to read for a long time? Jeannette Winterson’s Written on the Body. I just ordered a copy.

 

And a book that changed me that is not on the list? Meredith Hall’s memoir Without a Map. Hall’s story about being shunned and silenced as a result of teen pregnancy in the sixties made me realize that voice itself is a powerful and worthy subject; that to silence a voice is to silence a self.

 

In honor of International Women’s Day, I share this list of 33 Life-Changing Books.

 

You can read it here.

 

Which is your favorite book on the list? How did it change your life? Which book on the list are you going to read next? And what book would you add to this list?

 

Share in the comments below and let’s together add our powerful voices to this remarkable list in honor of International Women’s Day.