In the March 13, 2003 issue of the Current, Laura Fries shares her observations of International Women's Day activities only to pen commentary without context. Unfortunately, Fries' conclusions not only disrespect the struggles of women and working people everywhere, but also illustrate her journalistic inexperience and bias as a privileged individual.
As the organizers of this year's IWD march, we offer the context Fries failed to provide, and hope that as a journalist she works to meet the professional standard we have come to expect from the Current. It is also our intent to provide a greater understanding of International Women's Day and the struggles this day brings to the surface.
The progressive vision of International Women's Day is rooted in the history of the labor movement. The first march took place in New York City in 1857, when garment workers protested against low wages and inhumane working conditions. Women have since taken to the streets on March 8 to commemorate this protest and to address the struggles of women throughout the world. Many of the early marches were peace marches. One of the most famous IWD marches took place in 1917 in Russia with a strike "for bread and peace."
In every location and every place that it is celebrated, IWD takes on the shape and form of its local organizers even as it calls attention to international struggles. Therefore, its features are fluid, not fixed, and reflect the concerns of the women who organize their local events.
This year, with the looming war in Iraq, the issue of peace weighed heavily on the hearts of women and, we chose the theme "Women United for Peace: Peace in Our Homes, in Our City, in the World."
On the whole, our biggest disappointment with Fries' piece lies with her condescending tone and lack of professional integrity. First, her description of the "circle of ragtag San Antonians" serves no purpose but to humiliate those who participated in the march, many of whom were people of color and working-class individuals.
Second, her demeaning description of the ceremony, a sacred indigenous ritual, was offensive. The one quoted comment she chose to use about the ceremonia came from an organization in direct opposition to any religious traditions; their dissatisfaction would have been predictable.
Third, her deprecating descriptions of the West Side neighborhood, "an old woman in a tattered pink bathrobe, young boys half-hidden by the weeds, working men with weary faces, leaning heavily on rusty chain link fences" reeks of classism and racism. We chose to march on the West Side precisely because women's issues such as inadequate wages, health care, education, and affordable housing are of particular concern to this neighborhood. Fries failed to note the many women who waved us on in solidarity as we passed the places where they strive to raise their children.
Fries also concludes that there are "seeds of division," taking her cue from one of merely two marchers she interviewed, "Where is NOW?" as a signal to a community rift. The women's movement in America far extends the reach of NOW, and Fries' preference to include this remark only betrays her limited scope of feminism.
For her analysis, Fries never attempted to speak with the organizers. She had full access to us and knew whom to contact as she had attended one of the initial organizing meetings at Fuerza Unida. The fact is that the IWD march in San Antonio is a grassroots effort with a 12-year history in this city.
In the past, a number of women's organizations have participated with various degrees of involvement. This year, like every year, there was an open invitation for SA women to help coordinate the event. The final outcome was a reflection of the efforts by volunteers from various SA organizations willing to work through a collective process with all of its difficulties and rewards.
Had Fries provided context to the opinions of her work, she could have offered valid constructive criticism for the event. Instead, her efforts fell short, and the end result is a paternalistic and condescending article freighted with misrepresentations and errors. •