Make no mistake. From its very beginnings of International Working Women’s Day in 1911, March 8th was not meant for candy and flowers or even as a celebration of women. It was a means to organize and make change.
In 1920, Alexandra Kollontai submitted an essay that laid out the very root and ideals behind International Women’s Day. According to his essay, women’s suffrage was at the heart of the movement and it was organized around the world by socialist women’s organizations, wanting both voting rights and better working conditions.
International Women’s Day helped to organize women in Russia and earned them a place in history giving them enormous credit for the downfall of the Tsar. In Kollontai’s article, written more than 90 years ago, he says, “The situation is very different in the capitalist countries where women are still overworked and underprivileged. In these countries the voice of the working woman is weak and lifeless.” He would have been right, of course.
In 1977, the United Nations called on member countries to use March 8th as a day of celebration for the working women, neutralizing the militancy that once gave it life. Today, organizations around the west use it to “celebrate” women.
Instead, we should use it as a day of remembrance – let’s remember the millions of women who are raped around the world as a tool for war; for the women in the Middle East who continue to fight for their freedom, often putting themselves in danger; for the women of Saudi Arabia who simply want to drive; and the millions of women who are oppressed, abused and marginalized.
Perhaps I should just let James Bond remind us of the circumstances that women still face in 2011: