Happy International Women’s Day (a day early!) and of course, happy Women’s History Month. As you can imagine, this month is my favorite time to write my “Womansplaining” op-eds because almost every Cornellian is looking for the “best” way to celebrate women and the women in their lives — this year I’m providing you with a list of women who deserve your recognition and might not always get it.
My biggest pet peeve about International Women’s Day is the social media “thank you” posts. The “Thank you to all the amazing and strong women in my life” posts that almost always include a picture of your mother, sister, best friend and grandma but leave out so many other important people. It especially bothers me when someone who is particularly anti-feminist or spends time working against women has the audacity to do the same thing. I implore you to take actionable steps this International Women’s Day that move you beyond this performative activism: see my column from last year about ways to get involved for International Women’s Day on our campus.
Despite my annoyance with these posts, I have come to see them as completely inevitable. And, I’ve decided that International Women’s Day isn’t the day for me to be a complete feminist killjoy. Any way that you choose to center women and girls on this day is important, and frankly, the women who have impacted your life the most are often your close friends and family members. I know my mom (love you mom!) is the most inspiring person in my life. But she knows that I love her, because I tell her almost every day, and she is celebrated on so many other holidays throughout the year.
So, if you are just dying to push send on that Tweet or Instagram collage to show the world how much you love the women in your life, I encourage you to take a step beyond the obvious choices. Here’s a list of women in your Cornell life who might not get the same appreciation on this holiday as the people closest to you. Post about how they inspire you or send them a note of appreciation:
Your Hardworking E-board Member:
Is there a woman in your org that the club would just fall apart without? I can name a few from my orgs, ranging from presidents to super involved g-body members. Let them know how much you care about them this year and why they make your org a safe and inspiring place.
This is even more important if you’re a senior. Almost every senior that I know — especially the ones writing a thesis — are gripping tight to their advisors this year. Advisors are writing letters of recommendation for grad schools and jobs, filling out the paperwork to make sure that you graduate on time, reading too many drafts of that thesis and providing emotional support when you really need it. This is a great time to let your advisor know that they matter to you, and that they are a woman that you look up to. Granted, this only works if your advisor is a woman — like all three of mine!
Any other Professor:
Your advisor is definitely not the only professor who has made a lasting impact on your Cornell career. Cornell has so many amazing professors who deserve to be thanked daily — use this as an opportunity to thank the women! There are the professors who rearranged their schedules to help you when you were struggling with that paper, the professors who recommended you for fellowships or research opportunities, the professors who taught you something that completely changed your mindset, and the professors who taught so passionately that they inspired you to change your “well-thought-out” career path.
Almost everyone at Cornell has a study-buddy who isn’t really their friend, but is also their best friend. That’s the person who is taking that unbearable class with you and agrees to be your partner for the group project, shares class notes with you when you’re away on sick days and stays up all night with you cramming for that exam in Olin. I’ve had so many incredible women as study buddies over the years that I’ve lost touch with. Now’s the time to let them know that they really saved you in that class and were great friends when you really needed one.
Your Residential Staff:
Every Cornellian has lived on campus for at least one year during their undergraduate career. Your residential staff were the leaders who organized game nights and fun activities when you really needed it, checked in and helped you through the crises that come with living where you (school) work and who kept the campus safe during the pandemic. Even if you’re not living in residential life anymore, send an important RA, URF/GRF, HAD, RHD or House Professor a thank you to celebrate the holiday.
Do you have a special connection with your Libe barista, your favorite dining hall chef or server or your friend who is a dining student worker? Let them know how much you appreciate them for International Women’s Day! Dining staff have had it hard this year, adapting rapidly depending on campus COVID-19 protocols while still making the dining experience great for our community. If anyone deserves a thank you post, it’s them.
Your favorite Alumna:
Everyone knows my favorite Cornell alumnae: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Toni Morrison. Are they yours as well? Use this as an opportunity to thank the Cornell women who have paved the path for you and made our campus (and world!) a better space to live in. This could be a peer who graduated just a few years ago, a woman who helps mentor your student organization or an alumna who you’ve never met (or never had the opportunity to meet) who still inspires you.
The list can go on and on. There are so many incredible women in our Cornell community that make our space a place where we are happy to live and learn. This International Women’s Day, take the extra step to tell them how much they matter to you and how they have impacted your experience here. Also, of course, tell your mother that you love her. And feel free to post about it too!
Anuli Ononye (she/her) is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected] Womansplaining runs every other Monday this semester.