I just found out that March 8 is (was) International Women’s Day. I only found out because I’m catching up on my reading (now that Stress Free Dinner Parties is on the market), and one of the services I subscribe to commented on a political party’s choice to have their formal “celebratory” dinner in a men’s club that women can only access when brought in by their husbands. And the Prime Minister is claiming this as some kind of equality victory when it doesn’t in fact, change anything – the women attending dinner will not be permitted to access the club after the function.
It is a little disappointing to not have known about the day earlier, but I suppose with politicians continuing to say and do stupid things, cocaine addicted athletes, and Australians on death row in Indonesia there has been a lot of competition for air time. Though there has been Parliamentary debate about domestic violence, and how SOMETHING needs to be done.
So this made me curious about what the day is supposed to be about.
The day arises from the early suffrage campaigns, and marches demanding better pay and working conditions, and of course the vote. The first observation was initiated by the Socialist Party of America as National Women’s Day on February 28, 1909. But Women’s Day was mandated by the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910 as a day to press these demands further, thus the first “International Women’s Day” celebration was 19 March 1911. The official date of March 8 coincides with a Russian working women’s strike which resulted in their provisional right to vote. Gradually, year by year, country by country, the day spread leading to the United Nations (UN) declaration that 1975 was International Women’s Year.
The day is represented by the colour purple, symbolising dignity. The colour comes from the suffragette colour scheme of purple, white (purity) and green (hope) chosen by the Women’s Social and Political Union in Great Britain in 1908.
The UN’s intention for 2015 is to highlight the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action signed by 189 governments in 1995 (laying out a plan to achieve women’s rights) with the theme Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it! The International Women’s Day Team Each set theirs as Make it Happen, “encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women”.
So this is another day, built on the desire for equality and political power. I have to say that this one seems at face value to have been less successful than the Australia Day political campaign I referred to in January.
A small scan of today’s news tells me that International Women’s Day has been celebrated by a Queensland fun run to raise money for breast cancer and that pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine held a beauty pageant. In the UK, the 17.5% gender pay gap remains, and women returning from maternity leave are being demoted. In the US, the day is shortened to 23 hours by the commencement of Daylight Savings time – the only place in the world where the clocks change in March rather than April. In Canada, 31% of women say they don’t have enough support balancing their roles as mother, housekeeper, and income earner.
That is just a quick scan, but it’s rather depressing. We don’t seem to have met many of the goals of the early women’s movements.
Some women have made some significant achievements: Christine Lagarde (the first woman Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund), Janet Yelland (first woman to chair the US Federal Reserve), Angela Merkel (Germany’s Chancellor), Nobel Prize winning scientist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha al-Huwaider. Yet we still live in a world where Mrs George Clooney (well respected Human Rights Lawyer Amal Alamuddin) is asked “who” she is wearing on her way into court in her prescribed court dress.
So just for a moment of dark humour (because if you didn’t laugh you would cry), here’s a quiz to help you determine what kind of difficult woman you are. For the record, I am a bluestocking, and I am quite happy with that. Further, I am amused that the WordPress spell check doesn’t recognise bluestocking as a word.
Care to share what you are?