Women’s History Month: What is International Women’s Day really about?

Every day is your day, Ladies. But, on this day, your anger and rage is particularly welcomed because the fury you have within you moves mountains.

A couple of years ago on March 8th, I remember scrolling through my various social media pages and feeling extremely ignorant. Everybody was posting these sweet and empowering messages about women and International Women’s Day and I was like…when the hell did this become such a big thing?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am very pleased that International Women’s Day is indeed a big deal. I am happy to know that my Instagram feed is going to be one great big feminist love fest today. I am a woman. I am a marginalized woman. I am one of those women whose exploitation, abuse, abduction, rape and murder is often ignored. I NEED days like this in my life…for real. But goodness has it been a long journey to get to this point.

The first Woman’s Day observance was created by the Socialist Party of America and took place on February 28th in 1909 to commemorate the previous year’s garment workers’ strike in New York. Hence I find it rather ironic how Donald Trump once tweeted, “On International Women’s Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world, “ though he had the following to say about socialism:

“Socialism is not about the environment, it’s not about justice, it’s not about virtue. Socialism is about only one thing, it’s called power for the ruling class.”

Following 1909, socialists around the globe were eager to adopt an international observance of a Women’s Day to advance universal suffrage for women, women holding public office, women’s educational rights, women’s working rights and the elimination of discrimination against women in the workplace. Because, oh yeah, that would really put power in the hands of the ruling class. (Not.)

In 1914, European women held rallies on their various observances of International Women’s Day to protest World War I. And on the March 8, 1917 observance of International Women’s Day, Russian women spearheaded the Russian Revolution which ousted the Czar four days later and resulted in women being granted the right to vote.

Did y’all know that 1975 was actually designated by the United Nations as International Women’s Year? I certainly didn’t. Also, the United Nations established the years between 1976 and 1985 as the Decade for Women. You can read all about the resulting organizations  and the conferences that took place in this online archive here. (I dedicate this link to you, Deirdre Sugiuchi.)

From that point on, several initiatives were established and actions taken by various groups to advance international equality for women and girls…and I will continue to talk about those matters throughout the rest of the month. But for now, I want to remind everyone that International Women’s Day is not just a day to physically or digitally high-five each other and discuss how great we are. It is a day to stand up, raise our voices and take down any force that is intent on denying women their human and civil rights.

Case in point, did you know that the Violence Against Women Act was allowed to lapse because of the government shutdown? Yeah, it didn’t really get that much attention in the news. I wonder why…

But that’s okay. Under Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives is looking to reauthorize. If you can do nothing else today, call your representative and urge them to make this re-authorization happen.

Happy International Women’s Day, Y’all!


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