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International Women
Celebrating Rebellious Women

International Women's Day
  • The House of Mirth (by )
  • To the Lighthouse (by )
  • Mrs. Dalloway (by )
  • Ethan Frome (by )
  • The Age of Innocence (by )
  • Woolf Essays (by )
  • The Yellow Wallpaper (by )
  • The story of Mary MacLane (by )
  • The Book of Repulsive Women (by )
  • Shadows (by )
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International Women's Day (IWD), is celebrated on March 8 every year.

In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation, and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political, and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended the culture of many countries, primarily in Europe, especially those in the Soviet Bloc. In some regions, the day lost its political flavor, and became simply an occasion for people to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. In other regions, however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. Some people celebrate the day by wearing purple ribbons.

In light of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we celebrate all rebellious women throughout literature, not simply because they rebelled, but because their rebellion helped pave the way for all women of today (not to mention the voices of all other diversely oppressed people). Sculpting an identity amidst a culture and time that would deny them that requires courage and willful imagination. Their story bears the classic underdog trope, one that can be especially admired by fiercely individualistic western societies.
Depicting her as a rebel is one step towards forming a completely modern and equitable woman. But it is even greater than this to achieve—by way of looking back to the classics and weaving in contemporary thought of women—a structure that does restrict women to definitions, but one in which the modern woman may flourish.
A particular moment of rebellious brilliance was realized in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. With a voice of haunting simplicity and subtle singularity, Gilman details a woman’s horrific descent into madness which doubles as a reproach of the patronizing treatment of women in the late 1800’s.
Contrary to the simmering madness of The Yellow Wallpaper comes Mary Maclane’s fiery confessional, The Story of Mary Maclane. Her writing is by any standard, impassioned, bellicose, highly poetic and cathartic in her refusal to apologize. These are the types of passages that invoke the living word: “I can do this. Let me but make a beginning, let me but strike the world in a vulnerable spot, and I can take it by storm. Let me but win my spurs, and then you will see me—of womankind and young—valiantly astride a charger riding down the world, with Fame following at the charger’s heels, and the multitudes agape.”
The rebel with a cause seeks to cast off misrepresentative or generalizing identifiers, as it degrades the integrity of any cause, creating bulwarks against critical discourse, intellectual progress, empathy, and unification. Often times it leads to slander, contentious factions, or complete disregard for certain key limbs of a cause. This is why there must be a distinction for women of color. It is much more difficult for women of color to find their place in the literary canon, even today. Nella Larsen, a prominent yet not oft spoken figure of the Harlem Renaissance, deserves praise. Larsen’s classic novel, Passing, centers around a mixed-race woman living in New York City. It challenges ideas of gender and race and through these questions Larsen seems to create a self-sufficient identity all her own. It is a liminal masterwork that finds its strength in its refusal to pin down answers to plot developments (seemingly analogous to one who drifts between two races).
Of course, it is always necessary to mention Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One's Own.   All of her novels, in content and in form were progressive, pushing the boundaries of people’s expectations of women, and creating a voracious stream-of-conscience style that revealed to mainstream knowledge the complexities of the modern human mind and experience.
Literature is at its best when it challenges the norms of a current time and place, forcing the reader to the question, what if things were different? How could the world be better, what if it was worse? Completely similar to how great science fiction has always been a predictor for what the next developments in science, technology, and the philosophy tied to each will be, great classic literature has always pushed the boundaries of thought and perception under the guise of poetry and story. Great literature gives insight and empathy into stories not our own, but struggles of identity and humanity shared deeply within. And so we must not forget the words of the first poster that called for the celebration of International Women’s Day: Give us women’s suffrage.

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