The meaning of International Women's Day

The meaning of International Women's Day

by Staff Writer Grace Reeder

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Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day serves as a call to action to press for global Women’s equality. The holiday was first celebrated in New York, on February 28, 1909. It was decided in 1910, at the International Women’s Conference, to have the day celebrated annually on March 8. The day was not celebrated in Soviet Russia until 1917, following Russian women’s suffrage. In 1975 it became an official holiday marked by the United Nations. Many different organizations declare an annual theme for the day, all centered around different issues. The UN’s theme of Women’s Day for 2018 is: TIME IS NOW: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives. This will call attention to women living in rural environments, who make up a quarter of the world’s population.

International Women’s Day is celebrated throughout the world, and is an official holiday in many countries including: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

This past year has been defined by movements, such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, that call for change in regards to sexual harassment, discrimination, and misogynistic violence. While women’s right have been advanced all over the globe, and women have been increasingly present in business and political decision-making, women still have a ways to go to achieve equal treatment in society. International Women’s Day is a day to transform the momentum from this past year into concrete action for change.

Religious Studies Professor Rosemary Carbine, along with Political Science Professors Sara Angevine and Mike McBride sat down with the Quaker Campus to share their thoughts on the significance of International Women’s Day.

For Carbine, the day offers an opportunity to highlight global women’s contributions to various religious social institutions. She said the recent “Manifesto for Women in the Church” states, “we try to be generative in every situation of our lives, including places of work and of political and social commitment.” The manifesto is a document that has made the rounds on social media. The Manifesto was collaboration between Italian Catholic women and an organization called Voices of Faith, which is holding a conference on International Women’s Day. Many progressive Catholic Women’s organizations will be attending the conference. Carbine described the main themes of the manifesto, “these women claim three goals for their service to the church: one, assertiveness in asking for recognition for what they do; two, freedom; three, alliance in which these women claim, ‘We choose to be allies with the sisters we meet, and above all we choose not to fall into rivalry between women.’” These women are telling the church that the church is unfaithful to the gospel, to the way that Jesus related with women, and to role models for women in the church, like Mary Magdalen.”

Carbine also discussed the significance of this conference taking place at the Vatican on this particular day, as “the purpose of this conference is to stress, in part, the underappreciated, undervalued, and overlooked vital roles of women in the church.”

Angevine was first exposed to the global significance of International Women’s Day while she was living in Slovenia. The day is celebrated in Slovenia and some other other countries as something like Mother’s Day. However, in this celebration the mother’s identity is a political one. “It celebrates the mother’s role in the construction and reproduction of the state,” said Angevine. The day doesn’t just celebrate mothers, though. According to Angevine, “[The day recognizes] a moment where women come together in that identity as women, not just as mothers, but in the idea of women’s involvement with politics.” The event is looked at little differently in the United States, as it is more a celebration of women, as opposed to a call to political action. Angevine, additionally, discussed how International Women’s Day and political movements that highlight women  must be intersectional. “So much of what affects women, affects women of color, poor women, disabled women, LGBTQ+ women as well,” said Angevine. This idea is imperative in celebrating International Women’s Day. Dr. Mike McBride has worked extensively with the UN, specifically UNHCR, and he discussed the importance of the day as well. “The day is appropriate to celebrate annually,” said McBride. “and is in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals, for complete gender parity. It is necessary for women to be in top leadership roles to achieve a more just society. Although the UN still has a long way to go, International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of all the progress we’ve made thus far.”

These accounts highlight a variety of ways in which this day continues to influence different social and political spheres. Professor Angevine will also be hosting a teach-in all day on March 14, in the campus courtyard. This day will be a space focusing on “reclaiming our voices.” This will be a discussion focusing on how women can amplify their voices, reclaim their time, and how they can become agents of change.”