Women Make Music: Celebrating International Women’s Day

Until I moved to Poland in early 2006, I had no idea such a thing as International Women‘s Day existed. Here was this holiday characterized by lots and lots of upside down bouquets of an odd number of flowers (in Poland, everyone carries their flowers upside down and even numbers of them are considered an ill omen — so I wouldn’t buy your Polish girlfriend a dozen roses). I learned a little more about it that year. It was a day to make women’s issues known, a day to celebrate women for our strengths and beauty — both inside and out. But in America it’s a little-celebrated day, and if I was 21 before I heard about it in another country, I think it’s safe to say it’s seldom even acknowledged.

So today I’d like to celebrate the many faces of women, a true mosaic of intelligence, beauty, strength, fortitude, perseverance, passion, compassion, determination, and resilience. I’d like to candidly discuss how our freedoms in America have evolved and continue to change, and I’d love to have your input.

I’m going to start with the woman who gave birth to me.

That's me as a baby! First birthday. 🙂

My mother had me at age thirty-four. She and my father had been told that she probably couldn’t have kids, but they kept trying, because they wanted me more than anything in the world. Sometime around Valentine’s Day in 1984, they got lucky, and I was born on November 18 in Austin, Texas. Shortly after, we moved to Arkansas and then to Anchor Point, Alaska, where my parents divorced. My mom worked as a bartender and socked away money so she could leave my dad. I remember our tiny cabin we had right after we left, and our big galumphy St. Bernard, Chow, and Lab mix dog Sonny.

Mount McKinley, or Denali, in Alaska is the hi...

I don't have a picture of Sonny, so you'll have to make do with Mt. McKinley. Image via Wikipedia

My mom raised me alone for a long time. We never had money, but we saw Alaska. We saw grizzlies in Denali, moose galore. We met chatty squirrels and camped together. We moved to Portland and went to the Oregon Coast. My mom overcame a lot to raise me — addiction, previous abusive relationships, thousands of miles between us and our nearest family. She gave me a great childhood — I never realized how poor we were until I went to college.

My mom told me I could be anything, even when that meant I wanted to be an astronaut or a hang-glider. She told me I could marry anyone I loved. She taught me that all human beings are equal and worthy of respect and dignity. If there were more people like my mother in this world, it would be a better place.

There have been so many women in my life, so many wonderful people who shaped me and changed me over the years. Neeshonee, my mom’s longtime girlfriend with whom we moved to Montana, taught me to bead and to cook. She taught me more spiritual things about honoring the earth and respecting animals. She was and is my other mom. I spoke to her on my wedding day, even though I haven’t seen her in a decade.

There were the women of the Portland Lesbian Choir, all these aunties who loved and adored me. There was Jean “Bean” and Al (Alison), and the wonderful musical women of the Alaska Women’s Music Festival in Fairbanks. There was Ms. Harris, my sixth grade teacher, and Ms. Wright who told me I could write well. Professor Annamaria Orla-Bukowska at Jagiellonian University in Krakow who always involved me in her work of Holocaust remembrance and who had some of the most kind and encouraging things to say about my academic work I’ve ever heard.

Women have always been the biggest source of strength and inspiration in my life. Women can change the world.

Today is a day of celebration, but it is also a day that exists because of inequity. As Lois Alter Mark wrote in her article today, International Women’s Day exists because every other day is International Men’s Day. In my post last week, I mentioned the outrage I felt seeing that panel of experts discuss contraception without a single woman. What I didn’t know was that the panel refused to even accept a woman’s presence along side them. They disallowed Sandra Fluke from inclusion, and they also snubbed the Catholic Health Association (which is headed by a woman).

The anger about the situation centers mainly around the issue of contraception, but I’d like to bring up another point: the panel members insist that the issue was about religious freedom, not contraception. My question is: how does that make it more acceptable for them to bar women from the conversation? Can women have no voice in religious matters? There is wrongness there, and it sits ill with my soul.

It is International Women’s Day. Turkey is celebrating by passing laws to further protect women and children from abuse — both by increasing penalties against abusers and providing shelter to victims. Around the world, people are celebrating women today. And in America, the rights that have been painstakingly won over a century are quickly becoming the center of this year’s presidential election.

I will not stand for that. And neither should you. Where women are equals, societies improve. Celebrate your strength, your innovation, your intelligence today.

Ask a woman you care about her life today. Ask her how she got here. Listen. You won’t regret it.

I would like to share the lyrics of a song with you — some of you were here for my V-Day posts last month, and you might recognize Libby Roderick‘s name. The song is called “When I Hear Music,” and it encapsulates the feeling I want to celebrate today. The feeling of possible, of movement, of ability.

Women make music;
Women make love;
Women make babies;
Women make visions of…
Women make peaceful worlds;
Women make dreams;
Women make music, music, music music!

When I hear music, music sets my heart on fire!
Magic soars upon the wind; it fills me with desire!
When I hear music, music makes it all worthwhile.
Sorrow bursts into a song, and I remember.

Women make progress;
Women make change;
Women make trouble;
Women make memory and rage;
Women make dancing;
Women make do;
Women make music, music, music, music!

When I hear music, music sets my heart on fire!
Magic soars upon the wind; it fills me with desire!
When I hear music, music makes it all worthwhile.
Sorrow bursts into a song, and I remember….

That women’s arms hold up half the sky,
And women’s voices sing out half the song
That if this world is ever going to ring with hope
Then we must make a right to more than half the wrongs

Women make clothing;
Women make steel;
Women make nations;
Women make visions real;
Women make healing;
Women make time;
Women make music, music, music, music!

When I hear music, music sets my heart on fire!
Magic soars upon the wind; it fills me with desire!
When I hear music, music makes it all worthwhile.
Sorrow bursts into a song, and I remember….



About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on March 8, 2012, in life intervention, Thorsday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. Your mother is an inspiration.

  2. Behind every amazing woman… is probably an amazing Mom. As your story goes to show! 🙂

  3. Happy International Women’s Day Emmie.

  4. And the world is such a better place because Emmie Mears is in it. Thank you for reminding every woman of every age what we must always remember. Truly, an inspiring post.


  5. You seem like a pretty great woman yourself. Now we know where you get it from. Happy International Women’s Day.

  6. You’re a woman who is going to make a difference, Emmie. I know it.
    *toasting you and your mom*

  7. Such an inspirational post, Emmie!
    Happy belated International Women’s Day to you!

    I was born and raised in Poland, so this post was a delight to me. Sometimes it feels like the world is really shrinking 🙂 Oh, the IWD in Poland is still a huge, widely celebrated holiday. The Polish women love to be pampered and the Polish men love to spoil them – at least on that special day!

%d bloggers like this: