I still hear it, “Why is there an international women’s day but not an international men’s day?” And that question irks me, especially since there is an International Men’s Day, though you won’t see people buying them flowers.
Let’s start with the basics. International Women’s Day was originally called International Working Women’s Day. It was conceived as a day to show your love and support of women and to appreciate their economic power and strength. The first known Women’s Day celebration was held by a communist organization in New York in 1907, and many other woman’s days and labor strikes were held by women. In 1917, a large scale strike was held in St Petersburg Square demanding “bread and peace” on the last Saturday in February in the Gregorian Calendar, which was March 8th in the Western Calendar. I was first introduced to the holiday when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bulgaria. Women’s day was predominately celebrated in communist countries until 1977, when the UN adopted March 8th as a day to honor women’s rights and world peace. Starting in 1996, International Women’s Day was given a theme, this year’s being “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.”
As an American I sometimes believe we live in a hyper-focused society, one which believes that the whole world is the same. In fact, women around the world still face the most hardships, the most trials, and the most discrimination. I am still looked down upon in my own office for being focused and determined instead of keeping my mouth shut, although that isn’t going to change. But I am lucky enough that I can sue for gender discrimination, while my friends in China cannot.
International Men’s Day is on November 19th; it’s a day to focus on men’s issues such as health, and I am guessing that is why the organizers of “Movember” chose November. Men and women both have concerns that cannot be addressed in one day out of the year. We should honor each other, as individuals and as a group. Buy your girl a flower and your man a mustache comb and show each other how much you love each other.
Happy International Women’s Day, I am grateful to my foremothers before me.