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International Women's Day draws crowd to Watson Park

Meg Heriford, Lawrence, owner of Ladybird Diner, front facing, gets a hug from Ruthann Reigle, Lawrence, following Heriford's speech during the local gathering for the International Women's Day Strike on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Watson Park. Heriford spoke of her own experience as a survivor of sexual violence at the solidarity event, which had drawn over 200 people shortly after noon.

It isn’t uncommon for parks to draw people on nice days, but the crowd filling Watson Park on Wednesday was of a different sort. All afternoon, speakers broadcast speeches, poetry and live music to a crowd of mostly women dressed in red.

Meghan Heriford, owner of Ladybird Diner, was one of more than a dozen presenters at the event, held in honor of International Women's Day and in solidarity with women’s strikes also being held Wednesday.

Heriford, who closed her downtown restaurant for the day, said she realized the event would not bring the world to a grinding halt, but that it allowed participants to have a conversation about the world they want to live in.

“I can’t do anything to change the mindset of Donald Trump or his Cabinet, but I can actively chip away at what put them in office,” Heriford said. “Every day, we reject the culture that made him possible and found no fault with language that’s misogynistic, racist, anti-immigrant — anti everything that isn’t rich and white and male. I reject that culture and lend my resources to the counter-culture.”

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Meg Heriford, Lawrence, owner of Ladybird Diner, front facing, gets a hug from Ruthann Reigle, ...

International Women's Day — not officially designated by the United Nations until the 1970s — was first associated with the women’s labor movement at the turn of the 20th century, and has since expanded to include various issues, from the pay gap to violence against women.

At midday Wednesday, more than 200 people gathered in the park, and crowds kept steady throughout the seven-hour event. In addition to speeches and live music, the park was lined with informational tables from groups such as the Kansas organization of the Women’s March on Washington, American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, and The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center. Among the tables, one stood out.

The stand that Marylin Hinojosa was behind had fliers like the others, but was actually an ironing board propped open on the grass. Hinojosa said the ironing board represented all the women, such as those in the service industry, who weren’t able to take a day off for such an event. Hinojosa is a member of a group for local artists, Women of Color Makers, and said she was there to support women who wanted to advocate politically for issues such as equal pay, and access to child care and health care.

“We’re not asking for a reward; we’re asking for equality,” Hinojosa said.

Grier Starling, a Black Lives Matter activist and University of Kansas student, was there with a group of friends. Starling said he was there to show his support for women’s rights and to acknowledge issues such as sexual assault and domestic violence.

“I know for one thing, me showing up for women is a first step of many,” Starling said. “And so my goal was mainly just to show that I care.”

The event was organized by three local women: Melissa Johnson, Paulette Blanchard and Meghan July. July said the goal was to have an inclusive solidarity event that combined speeches about issues and music. In a long breath, July went through a list of the issues facing women, including economic inequality, reproductive rights, transgender rights and retaining civil rights.

“We have a long fight ahead of us for justice,” July said. “And we need to come together and have positive experiences and share space, so we know what we’re fighting for. We want to practice creating the society that we wish we lived in.”

Comments

Brock Masters

Seems to me you are acknowledging that you are not equal if you have to ask to ask for equality. When two forces are equal neither can dominate the other.

Women were on this planet before men so how did we end up with women, by their own acknowledgement, not being on equal footing with men?

Now that I got your attention let's have a real discussion

Of course women are equal to men but it depends on how you define equality. Women are absolutely equal to men in innate value, contribution to society and excel in areas over men.

Of course there are differences in men and women and those differences often serve to complement each other and make the whole of society better than its individuals.

I've heard this question posed many times and have yet to hear an answer, what right's do men have that women don't have?

As far as pay inequality you must compare apples to apples. Women often work in fields that have lower pay so you can't compare the average salary of women to men.

And keep in mind, it is illegal to pay a women less than a man, so if a women is being discriminated against, she already has recourse.

This constant division by race and sex is damaging our society. We should be working together and not against one another.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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