It has been 47 years since the UN recognised 8 March as International Women’s Day, but how much has changed since 1975? While there is no denying how, overall, there have been some huge and significant strides towards gender equality throughout these years, that doesn’t mean we should be stopping there. Just because there is a day celebrating women and the successes made regarding gender equality, does that really mean anything in the wider picture of equality?
Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe the premise around International Women’s Day is beautiful. I love the fact there is a day often so full of joy and a day encouraging the uniting of all different kinds of women across the globe. What I don’t love about it, is how people often use this day.
Businesses have been able to adapt their strategies to be able to use this day to put on an IWD event and allow women to speak on feminist issues, yet these are the same businesses with no racial discrimination policies in their hiring processes or the same businesses which have unequal healthcare programmes in place. I think IWD can now easily be used by those in power to their own advantage and can especially be used to excuse and disguise people and businesses’ biased behaviour at any other time.
Not only that but this day has also easily become an excuse to not look forward, an excuse to almost give up on the rest. Yes, there have been tremendous strides in gender equality, but in a similar way to feminism being a positive thing, it is only positive in one way – the white way. Just like how feminism is incredible, it is only incredible if it is intersectional. So, International Women’s Day is great, but is it actually useful?
I think it is very easy to let people view International Women’s Day as a day of remembrance, a day where we all look back and see how much we have achieved. However, this “look how far we have come” narrative is extremely counterproductive when there is still so far to go. I believe the remembrance narrative is planted in ignorance. This rhetoric is full of empty words for many women, especially for women of colour. To only look at how far we have come is to only look at how far white women have come in a world still full of bias for other women. To stop here and to see this as a day of only celebration is to give up.
I don’t want to be the girl who bashes on IWD because I genuinely do think it can be such a joyous day and I think it is important in its ways of providing a safe space for women to speak up, for example, IWD does an incredible job at speaking up on and pushing for more mainstream coverage of sex work. I just think we cannot allow for those businesses, and a large proportion of men in which according to a recent study by the UN 90 percent of men and women are still biased against women, to use this day as an excuse for the other 364 days of the year to show those biases.
One day of the year will not contribute to useful change nor will it advocate for the needed systemic changes to be put in place. This needs to be a day where we evaluate what still needs to be done, a day of rebellion against everything still not done, a day of action.