Does International Women’s Day Benefit Feminism?

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International Women’s Day, on March 8th, is touted as a day to ‘take action’, ‘#pledgeforparity’ and ‘celebrate’. The official website encourages people to ‘celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.’

Across social media, photos and stories of inspiring women were shared. On campus, FemSoc had a stall with informative leaflets on why we need equality (there have been 4 female SUSU presidents since the 1970s, and also 4 called David).

But there was, inevitably, a lot of negativity on the day. ‘What about International Men’s Day?!’ I saw, seemingly everywhere. People were offended that women should have a day to celebrate their achievements (people who couldn’t type ‘international men’s day’ in to Google and see that it is November 19th).

‘But every day is International Men’s Day!’, was a common reply to those comments, which really does not help the feminist cause. International Women’s Day is needed because 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children, because women still make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, and on the day intended for celebrating women, the conversation is still brought back to men and when their day is.

But really, do we need International Women’s Day? Right now, yes. In theory, we shouldn’t. Just like how we shouldn’t have LGBT+ month, Black History Month, Valentine’s Day – women should be equal and celebrated all year round, just like LGBT+ people, black history and love. International Women’s Day as a concept further sections women off and segregates them, allowing them a single day out of 365 in which they can be celebrated. Of course, women’s achievements can be celebrated all year round, but to have a single day for it shows that it isn’t ‘normal’ to do so. It’s ‘other’, it’s not the norm.

I was curious as to the inclusion of trans people in International Women’s Day, but I saw dozens of posts along the lines of ‘support your sisters, not just your CISters’, which shows the intersectional-ness of the day. But was that just because it was one day out of 365? I feel like International Women’s Day didn’t bring attention to:

  • The pressure women can face to keep children when they become pregnant,
  • Violence trans people face,
  • Gender wage gap,
  • The ‘a key that can unlock any lock is a good key, but a lock that opens to any key is a bad lock’ analogy that circulates,
  • The celebration of men having multiple sexual partners compared to the pressure on women to be virginal and innocent,
  • Socially-constructed virginity,
  • Expectations of women to be quiet and obedient (like it’s still the 19th century and women can’t be strong and in charge).

There were a lot of inspiring stories, and they were incredible to read. However, education on the darker side of being a woman would have prevented all the ‘where is International Men’s Day’ backlash.

Education on what feminism actually is as a cause would have also helped. People should know that feminism is for men as much as it is for women, that men can be feminists, that feminism fights for femininity to be seen as good as masculinity is. More effort must be made to educate people that feminism supports femininity being embraced, men having support networks when they are abused, for male rape not being laughed off and dismissed, for men to be able to show emotion without being insulted and mocked.

But on March 8th, women can be praised for being a boss and in charge, rather than bossy and ‘like a man’. They can be strong for standing up to abuse, catcalling, abortion rights. If we can’t have a year-round celebration of this yet, then I think it’s good to at least have one day for women to be equal. I’d rather it was the other 364 too, but it’s a start.

With the first International Women’s Day being held in 1911, at this rate there’s only approximately 370 years to go before women can be celebrated everyday, as much as they are on March 8th.

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Third year PAIR student and head of events. Also The Edge's live editor and 2016-17 opinion editor. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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