Earlier this month, on March 8th, we celebrated the triumphs and mourned the losses of women all over the globe as part of International Women’s Day (IWD). It’s an easy holiday to miss, as it rarely gets much mainstream attention apart from a casual mention and a Google doodle or clip. For some, the day is about celebrating the important women in their lives including: mothers, wives, and daughters. For others, it is a day to reinvigorate discourse about socio-political issues affecting women such as abortion, transwomen rights, and domestic violence; these are only a few of the major topics that have a global impact on the lives of women. For myself and most people, the day represents a mix of those two facets. I celebrate the strong women in my life but also recognize and educate myself on the global and national issues that still affect women today.
According to the United Nations, IWD was first celebrated by the Socialist Party of America in New York City in 1909. It was started to remember and honor female garment workers who went on strike protesting hazardous factory conditions. A year later, the Socialist International Convention in Copenhagen established an official international day in support of women’s suffrage and the progression of women’s rights. Over the decades, IWD has been continuously reshaped and recolored by different organizations and people to reflect their own backgrounds and missions. The UN, for example, was the first major group to explicitly state the principle of equality between men and women within the internationally agreed upon Charter of 1945. Since then the UN has used IWD to restart political discussion regarding a variety of issues, such as female genital mutilation. On their official site, they state that the “empowerment of women continues to be a central feature” of their global mission. So, while the day may not be as well remembered as MLK Jr. Day or Veteren’s Day, IWD still carries weight.
Personally, the day represents one of contemplation. I remember to call my mother and thank her for being such a strong and powerful woman, an admirable role model who has faced far more adversity than I ever will. Then, I force myself to stop and actually reflect on the issues that still face us and what my role as a female university student should be in mitigating them. Problems with campus assault and rape still plague many universities, but many women still feel they are not able to express their concerns and even worse report any crimes that actually happen. Furthermore, there is ongoing conflict over transwomen’s rights. For example, in a university setting many still feel unsafe using the restroom and changing rooms. On the international front, transwomen still face a disproportionately high percent of violence and assault. As a young woman, I believe I have responsibility to pay attention and to engage in the contemporary conversation so that I can do my part in bettering women worldwide.
While IWD has passed, I ask you not to forget the stories of women that you have heard and to continue to participate in the feminist discourse. We as women have come a long way, but there is still so much road left untravelled.