The urgent will to live – some thoughts to International Womens’ Day
On International Women’s Day, Why Women Need to Climb Mountains was shown in the beautiful and quaint Metro Cinema in Vienna to 160 people which marked another milestone in honoring Gerda Lerner’s work. Some friends who came to see the film and had seen it before in other cities commented that is was different to see the film in Gerda’s hometown. They said they felt more what it was really like for Gerda to grow up in post- and pre-war Vienna. For the ones of you who have seen the film, you know that the first half hour speaks of Gerda Lerner’s time in Austria and its political and human position it took in the nineteen thirties which was pretty despicable. Yet these scenes that even a year ago seemed like a ‘historical document’ feel now more real or imaginable than we would like it to believe. Not that history repeats itself in ways that we can predict. But we face a similar fragility on our continent that we faced less than hundred years ago, only even more complex.
Whilst getting ready for the evening I read some online news about International Women’s Day, some inspiring, some less: Women in Turkey who went to demonstrate for their rights on ‘their day’ were attacked by police and hurt by rubber bullets. Watching the video was very scary as one could feel the lust and roboticness of the policemen attacking the women … and then another surprising news which I didn’t know about: in Russia International Women’s Day is a holiday and men are supposed to give women gifts and flowers and treat them well. In a country that has just made domestic crime less punishable, that is very surprising, or maybe not? Or is it fake news? Can someone enlighten me here?
But what should celebrating women ONE day a year really suppose to do? Should it just make women feel that it is ok for us, after all, to be here, especially in a time where we silently feel that our right to be here is not as self-evident as it felt just even a year ago? Or should it remind everyone, that there is something about women that we (men and women) tend to forget about most of the year? Our courage, our selfless compassion, our unbelievable tenacity and our will to live? We are no saints or ‘better’ humans, that is for sure…. But I do think that we have something to offer, if we were to believe in this life-affirming force that pulses intrinsically deep in every woman. Since many centuries and millennia, we were here to bear and to protect life and to enhance its growth and well-being. Were we to transfer this fact to the way we live our lives from a deep place of saying YES to being here on this small planet with our whole being (and to ourselves and each other), and were we to transfer this to an attitude towards life and nature where we act in our personal, social and political lives with respect, dignity and love – we would not only be empowered ourselves but we would also give something to the urgency of the situation we are in. In every moment of our days. The times are urgent. I don’t have to repeat the reasons why.
Some of you will probably think ‘oh, she is so naïve’ and ‘what will that do to our crisis’. But try it, try to take yourself so far that you come to a place of total life affirmation – not because life is all good and wonderful – to the contrary – but because you as a woman are built to give life, honor it, nourish it, and help it grow in beautiful ways. We have survived centuries of pain and humiliation and we are HERE, backed by many sisters who fought for this life force in many ways. And we are still standing with more freedom, strength and creative potentials than ever (at least here in the West but also in more and more areas on this globe) and we have public and private platforms to give voice to what we care for more than ever – as fragile as it ALL is! We need to dig deep into our self-respect and love and connect with courage to our deepest humanity.
Men of course have also a crucial role to play and have deep capacities to love and care but I will not go into this here, as I just want to focus on what International Women’s Day could and should really be about: About our strength and our incredible capacity to love so deeply. It is just so urgent. There is no more time to hide in passivity or in avoidance of the facts. I have no idea what that all looks like in each of us as I think we are here now to find new ways that are not only just passively ‘supporting’ or pacifying aggression – we have to be independent, loving AND strong. One direction is kind of clear: it means saying firmly NO to derogatory, inhumane, aggressive, power-driven, racist and misogynist ways of thinking, talking and behaving. And we also have to lead the way in life-supporting, big-hearted and understanding ways of communication. How to do this is up to each one of us as I believe also in our creative and playful ways to respond. And we can be and are unified in our strength to say YES to respect and dignity of life (I also mean nature when I say ‘life’). When I write this, I am also aware that this will of course not solve the intense problems that we are facing but I think we will be able to respond to these problems in perhaps just a bit more freer and more courageous ways… Someone said recently: The ‘Now’ just feels so much more serious and dense right now!
And I wish you all a wonderful spring or autumn – wherever you are on this planet!
The film was shown in various cinemas in Austria and Germany over the past months. In April it will be shown in Amsterdam and possibly another Dutch city and there are various screenings in the United States and mid-summer in Canada and the UK. More information here. If you would like to show the film in a place near you, please write to me here. Thank you!
For the ones of you who are interested: There is a great free online women’s course being offered by Colombia University. This is an initiative by Professor Alice Kessler-Harris and her colleagues. There will be a section about Gerda Lerner’s work in there too and the film is embedded in the program. More information here.
German DVD can be purchased here.
English VoD can be purchased here.