How To Celebrate International Women’s Day During A Pandemic

“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

May 8, 2021. International Women’s Day is coming up soon. The pandemic has ruined a lot for us, but we will not let it ruin this day. There is a myriad of things we can do to celebrate this special day in a safe way during a pandemic. 

First and foremost, it’s important to know the history of amazing women and the history of the day itself. International Women’s Day was officially honored for the first time in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland on March 19th, 1911. Right before World War I erupted, Russian women were campaigning for peace and started discussions. They honored International Women’s Day on February 23rd. After many talks, the official day became March 8th. In 1914, millions of women in Europe campaigned for peace to stop the start of the war. They held rallies to show their lack of support of the war and it was also a way of showing women’s solidarity. On March 8, 1914, in the UK, there was a march for the women’s suffrage movement. Sylvia Pankhurst, a popular icon for the suffrage movement, was arrested. In 1975, the United Nations officially celebrated International Women’s Day. They started establishing themes annually for this very day. In 2000, unfortunately, most people’s attitudes about feminism became apathetic, even though there was still more work to be done. In 2001, internationalwomensday.com was created to raise awareness about the importance of this day and for people to be re-energized about the movement. In 2011, it had become a century since the first International Women’s Day event in Europe. President Barack Obama used his power and proclaimed March to be women’s history month. Since then, the feminist movement has picked up momentum and a lot of people today identify themselves as feminists. 

After knowing the history behind this important day, let’s talk about some important historical figures. Sojourner Truth was an African American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and author. During her time period, she lived a horrible life as an enslaved woman. However, in 1826, she escaped to her freedom and became a Christian. She went to court to recover her son and became the first black woman to win a case like that against a white man. She also started preaching about abolitionism and equal rights. Her most famous speech to this day is called “Ain’t I a Woman?” at the women’s convention in Ohio in 1851. 

Maya Angelou was a Pulitzer-prize-nominated poet and also a civil rights activist. Her first autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” received critical acclaim at the time for the way that she depicted racism and sexual assault. She is known for black feminism and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Malcolm X. 

Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to be elected to the US Congress in 1968. She was nominated to run for president for the Democratic party and became the first woman to do that for the Democratic party. 

Susan B. Anthony was also a very important feminist icon. She played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. At just 17, she started collecting anti-slavery petitions. She founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869 with another notable feminist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They are both known for paving the way for the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

Along with learning about the great women of the past, another way to celebrate International Women’s Day is to watch movies and TV shows about wonderful women. Some great shows to watch are "Grace & Frankie", a comedy about two 70-year-old women whose representation is positively portrayed. Unbelievable is a show about a rape investigation, based on a true story. It shows the realism of how women are treated unfairly in the justice system as victims. "Orange is the New Black" has become immensely popular. Why? For its diversity on screen and behind the camera? For its representation of sexual assault and bodily autonomy? For its talk of the patriarchal social division and how it keeps women at odds? I guess we’ll never know. "Big Little Lies" is a story of a group of women who come together to cover up the murder of an abusive husband. "The Handmaid’s Tale" is a show depicting a woman who is stripped of her freedom and dignity and trying to escape her new reality in a dystopian world in which a dictatorship overtakes America.

A movie worth watching is "Period. End of Sentence.", a short documentary about a feminist revolution in India. "A Secret Love" is another great documentary that portrays the relationship of two lesbian women who had to hide their love for each other. "Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen" is a documentary that features the struggles that transgender creators go through in Hollywood. "Knock Down the House" is a documentary about four women running for congress in 2018 and the double standards they experience as they work hard to reach their goals in politics.

Some great authors whose books you should pick up include Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jane Austen, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver, Adrienne Rich, Kate Chopin, Alice Walker and so many more. 

This International Women’s Day, facetime/zoom your feminist friends and watch any of these recommended movies and TV shows. Discuss why you love being a woman. Discuss what you can do in your everyday life to fight against backward societal norms that stem from the patriarchy. Discuss the importance of women standing up for each other, instead of pitting themselves against each other. Do all of this on March 8th, but do not see it as something you can only do one day a year. You can do this all 365 days a year.