The year is 2019 and the observation of International Women's Day is just as important as it was at its beginning in 1909.
Though the day of observance was formulated two years earlier, 1911 is when International Women's Day truly grew into a global phenomenon. March 1911 was also an important time for women in the US, as the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed more than 140 workers, with many being women. From then on, female workers became a respected part of the celebration.
Now, in 2019, women are still fighting for themselves. The underrepresentation of women in the workplace, the #MeToo movement, and the controversy over reproductive rights are just a few issues that we see covered in media. But the less-discussed topics - casual sexism, male privilege - are also prevalent. Social media is sometimes used to manipulate the problems women face, by making up issues that women are upset about instead of listening to what they’re saying.
International Women’s Day is a day for activism, but is also a day of recognition. The celebration recognizes the achievements of women socially, economically, culturally, and politically. It also includes all women - regardless of race, gender assigned at birth, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, socioeconomic status, or age. Its inclusivity makes taking part in the celebration easier, as its outreach understands the limitations women may have in participating in the day.
The UN first recognized International Women’s Day in 1975. Since 2014, over a 100 countries have recognized the celebration of women, with some countries even declaring it a public holiday. The UN comes up with a theme each year to inspire people to come together. 2019’s theme is Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change. The International Women’s Day website is campaigning with the motto #BalanceIsBetter, advocating for the equality of the sexes.
The great thing about the celebration is that it can be done in many ways! The IWD website has a search for events going on around the world (our closest is Chicago), but there’s nothing wrong with cheering on fellow women over the internet if you can’t make it in person. Other great ways to celebrate include supporting female businesses and donating to charities that support women.
Outside the US, celebrations range from support of women to protest. In Amsterdam, events are being held to teach young girls how to code. In Ireland, women are holding a mass-walkout in protest for gender-based issues in the workplace and for women’s health.
Though our Spring Break starts as the rest of the world is celebrating, supporting women is an activity that can be done at any time. Attending women’s athletic events, supporting female-run and female-centered clubs, and recognizing women in underrepresented fields are just a few ways to raise up the women on campus. Smaller gestures, like cheering on a female friend or thanking a woman in your life, are other ways to show solidarity with women today and everyday.