Sunday, March 10, 2024

A Story to Celebrate on International Women's Day: The San Diego Splash

The month of March has been designated as Women's History month and March 8 is International Women's Day. If you are on social media, no doubt you were reminded and/or made aware of this celebration. But what exactly does it all mean? In other words, what are we to do with a day that has grown in popularlity and public recognition? How are we to proceed with a month that Americans are ever more familiar with and supportive of? It's not a major holiday or a minor one. Here's my approach: share a story. 
First, I'll begin with a story. I decided I would search for answers to my question on ChatGPT. I figured why not? That's where many of my students find their own. I asked this chatbot, developed by OpenAI "What does International Women's Day mean?" I got a good answer.
It is a day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the achievements, contributions, and advancements of women worldwide. The day also serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for gender equality and the need to address challenges and disparities that women face.
In particular, I appreciated the key aspects and meanings of International Women's Day. I think these suggestions can serve as an important path for proceeding. 

Celebrating Achievements: IWD provides an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of women in various fields, including politics, science, arts, business, and more. It highlights their contributions to social, economic, cultural, and political development.

Advocacy for Gender Equality: International Women's Day is a platform for advocating gender equality and promoting equal opportunities for women in all aspects of life. It draws attention to persisting gender disparities and works towards fostering a more inclusive and equitable world.

Raising Awareness: The day serves as a catalyst for raising awareness about issues such as gender-based discrimination, violence against women, and systemic inequalities. It encourages conversations and actions to address these challenges.
Inspiring Change: International Women's Day inspires individuals and communities to take action towards creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world. This can involve challenging stereotypes, supporting women's rights, and promoting policies that advance gender equality.

Empowering Women: IWD is a time to empower and uplift women, fostering a sense of solidarity and unity. It encourages women to pursue their aspirations, break barriers, and overcome challenges in their personal and professional lives.

Recognizing Intersectionality: International Women's Day recognizes that women's experiences and challenges are diverse and can be influenced by factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and more. It emphasizes the importance of an inclusive approach that considers the intersecting identities of women.

Highlighting Unfinished Work: While celebrating progress, International Women's Day also highlights the unfinished work in achieving gender equality. It encourages continued efforts to address existing disparities and challenges.

However, the problem with AI is what too often goes missing: the personal touch, the unique approach that makes any ritual or obligation meaingful or memorable. (From what I am told, will only get better). I believe a key aspect for IWD is sharing stories of women past and present. And I believe one I used in my recent talk at Regis Jesuit's Diversity Day 2024: The Wisdom of Women in Sports and Spiritulaity is worth sharing.
First, meet the San Diego Spalsh— a group of trailblazing women in their 80s and 90s who played basketball in San Diego Senior Women’s Basketball Association (SWBA). 

They are the subject of “Make A Splash—a new sports film about a team of women in their 80s and 90s – not from the 1980s or 1990s – who play real basketball, with off-ball picks and turnaround jumpers." (The Guardian)

These pioneers have powerful stories to share regarding equal rights for women in sports. They continue to lead by example and shatter stereotypes regarding women in sports & beyond. It would be tempting to watch the players and say: Wow, look at those old ladies make cuts and sink those shots! Aren’t they just so … cute? It would also, like an air ball, miss the point.”

As you watch, pay attention to the 96 year old Grace Larsen. Larsen, a former municipal court deputy clerk in San Diego, always enjoyed sports but didn't have the opportunity to play organized athletics in her youth because they didn't exist for girls at the time. Instead, she played football in the street or basketball in gym class. One of the most basic lessons they teach us is to play because you can. What an invaluable lesson for all of us.

The lives of the players are their coaches are forever changed by the sisterhood that comes from being in a league of their own. They travel for competition, they practice and develop set plays. Some players communicate more effectively with one another on the hardwood. Others share similar struggles and life losses off the court. They celebrate birthdays and the end of life, too. In short, they love one another.
Their wisdom cannot be hidden. In one poignant scene, they watch a group of young girls playing their game. One woman shouts, “That's the future right there!” Another adds, “My school—we weren't allowed to play full court basketball.They didn't have many sports for girls.” Her teammate announces “Title IX gave an okay for women to be athletic, period.”

There are many ways to teach about the importance of Title IX, Women's History Month and International Women's Day—and I can make a strong argument that we should. But, I think stories that reveal that truth, might be the most convincing way for everyone to understand its impact and celebrate what it means. I found a memorable, meaningful one in ESPN’s Fifty/50: Make a Splash but there are countless others. Look and listen, show and tell. Make a splash...
Splash on three....!

Photo Credits
Hands in
Team work

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