International Women's Day

It’s time to celebrate women and their achievements. Unfortunately, due to Covid we can’t actually go out and fully celebrate it or show its message. Nevertheless, we can acknowledge this important day, wish it to one another, read about it and continue to recognize it, its history and impact. So, what is International Women’s Day (IWD) and how did it get started?

International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates women’s social, political, economic and cultural achievements. It also aims to raise more awareness and advance gender equality which is an ongoing issue, particularly highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s reports according to which “[n]one of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes,” nor likely will many of our children. This day, then, also becomes an important reminder that the work is not done in closing the gender gap between women and men in economic as well as social positions.

International Women’s Day has its roots in very early 20th century when “a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world” saw a “booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies” (IWD). In 1908, a huge women’s march took place in New York against their oppression and inequality in pay and voting rights. The following year, 1909, the Socialist Party of America organized the first National Woman’s Day on February 28.

In 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was held in Copenhagen where the German delegates, one being Clara Zetkin, proposed an annual international women’s day. It was unanimously approved by 100 delegates from 17 countries and the following year, International Women’s Day was marked in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19 by demonstrations and rallies. In 1914, the date was changed into March 8 which has stuck ever since. On that day in 1917, in Russia “women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War 1” (IWD). This significant strike lasted four days, forcing the Tsar to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

As second-wave feminism emerged in the 60s with hopes of and demands for equality in social and legal rights, feminism started to internationally gain more momentum as a social and political movement. In 1975, the United Nations began to formally celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8.

But onto the present. How to spend this historic day and, for that matter, consider women’s position and achievements during this lovely month of March? Here are some suggestions on how to approach this day and what to read.

 

You Should Not Buy Flowers to a Woman Today

International Women's Day is about human rights - as women as individual humans (not as your sister, mother, girlfriend, etc.). While gifting people with chocolates and flowers is incredibly sweet, please do that literally any other day of the year. This day is about equality.

What to do Instead?

  • Donate to a charity that supports women and girls. We recommend checking out UN Women.
  • Support female-led small businesses.
  • Do some soul-searching; understand that supporting women does not only mean women you're attracted to - it means all women. There is inequality between women too - think, for example, about how different the lives of a white, cis, heterosexual, middle-class woman and a black, trans, gay, working class woman might be. Take a look at Kimberle Crenshaw's works on intersectionality - start with this essay.
  • Spread the word about International Women's Day. 
  • Amplify the voices of female activists. Share posts on social media. Engage your friends and family. 
  • Listen actively. Focus on understanding more than speaking.
  • Educate yourself on matters related to gender inequality. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Watch a TV series.

 

Further Reading

Nonfiction

Adichie, Chimamanda Gnozie. We Should All Be Feminists.

Baker, Jes M. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.

Crenshaw, Kimberly. "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics." 

Davis, Angela. Women, Race and Class.

Frances-White, Deborah. The Guilty Feminist: From our noble goals to our worst hypocrisies.

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist.

Gino, Alex. George.

Perez, Caroline Criado. Invisible Women.

 

Fiction*

Alderman, Naomi. The Power.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale.

Anglelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour."

Kang, Han. The Vegetarian.

Lee, Mackenzi. The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.

Oliphant, Margaret. "The Library Window."

Thomas, Angie. On the Come Up.

* Most of these works include descriptions of potentially triggering topics such as violence, rape and explicitly racist content. We recommend looking up trigger warnings if this is a concern for you.

 

Poetry and Spoken Word

By Poem

"Ain't I a Woman" by Sojourner Truth.

"Warning" by Jenny Joseph.

 

By Poet

Amanda Lovelace's Poetry.

Audre Lorde's Poetry.

Margaret Atwood's Poetry.

Maya Angelou's Poetry.

Nikita Gill's poetry.

Rupi Kaur's Poetry.