A few months ago, I found myself walking the pristine halls of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or the SFMOMA as it’s known. Prior to the visit, I was quite excited – the SFMOMA, after all, is the home of one of my favorite paintings. I remember entering the gallery where it was featured – with its pristine white walls and tiny labels – and searching for it. I remember finding it, far bigger than I expected yet just as impactful. I remember sitting on a bench and staring at it for what felt like hours but was likely just half of one. And I remember being disappointed, deeply and utterly disappointed.
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to empowering women and achieving gender equality. International Women’s Day, like everything else, is not timeless – it has a history. And throughout this history, which began in 1909, International Women’s Day has been intertwined with socialist and anti-war movements. Indeed, it was celebrated almost solely by socialists and communists before finally reaching the capitalist world in 1975. Even today, the roots of leftism remain strong in International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to uplifting women of all races and classes. And yet, even if International Women’s Day has become more widespread and thereby commodified, it has never – and must never – become divorced from its radical roots.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These words start the American Bill of Rights and, supposedly, guarantee the freedom of speech to American citizens. While this may sound nice, America’s immemorial commitment to free speech is a simply a myth.