Why you should care
Because it is 2017, and International Women’s Day began more than a century ago.
Much progress has been made since the first International Women’s Day, in 1911: suffrage, education rights, the pill, epidurals. Yet, International Women’s Day persists.
To which we say: Thanks, but no thanks. Devoting one day to the people who quite literally deliver the human race is ludicrous, and worse: It’s actually holding us back. That single day signals that it is OK to devote 24 hours of parades, tweets and walkouts to women and their pesky rights. On March 9, everything will go back to the status quo, and women will continue fighting — for equal pay, reproductive rights — without the Hallmark gloss and probably with much more antipathy.
Encouraged by the organizers of January’s massively successful Women’s March, some women will sit out today’s workday, or wear red, or refuse to shop. Fair enough. But women have a long slog of fighting ahead — pouring our collective female energy into one day is odd. We’d be better served doling out the protests, speakers series and social media campaigns throughout the year. Or, for that matter, focusing on the big, definable issues instead of the more amorphous “women’s rights.” Join together in a campaign to end child marriage, or to open access to contraceptives, or to get equal pay. Better to join ongoing efforts instead of drumming up a lot of noise only to be silent the next day.
To be sure, the idea of nixing IWD, as it is more casually known, isn’t popular, especially on the heels of that massively successful Women’s March. Ideally, every day would be women’s day, concedes Shelby Quast, director of the Americas program of Equality Now, a human rights organization focused on women and girls. But “the truth is, having one time to really shine a light and use advocacy to hold organizations or governments or the United Nations accountable is still important.” Women’s History Month grew out of IWD, she says, and last year, it became an occasion for numerous organizations to pledge to work toward gender parity.
All very well and good, but it reminds us just how annoyingly amorphous the idea of women’s day has become. It was born in the cradle of the labor movement, at a time when most working women were consigned to dangerous sweatshops. When the United Nations picked it up and made it a global thing, it lost much of its ideological underpinnings and picked up plenty of anodyne wishy-washiness. This year’s campaign is “Be Bold for Change,” whatever that means, and its corporate partners include Caterpillar, PepsiCo and Western Union. Sigh.
We have another, perhaps stickier issue with a day for women: Being a woman doesn’t automatically make you worth celebrating. Plenty of terrible people have two X chromosomes and a uterus. Don’t celebrate them, please.
And while we’re at it, we’d like to dispense with International Men’s Day, too. (Yes, that’s a thing.)