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The Problem With International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. The holiday was designed in the 1900s to draw attention to women’s welfare, but only recently drifted into our annual national radar around 2016. Since then, each year on March 8th, social media and news feed explode with messages of female empowerment, promises to champion women everywhere, and sponsored promotions for products made specifically for women, often by women.

While a holiday to uphold women's rights sounds great in theory, there’s just one problem with International Women’s Day.

It’s bullshit and we’re all falling for it.

International Women’s Day is becoming more and more commercialized (like Valentine’s Day) with each passing year. On this day, brands roll out their girl power campaigns to promote products for profit, but rarely make a sincere effort to improve the lives of everyday women (even within their own companies). On this day, husbands, boyfriends, and partners take to social media to praise the women in their lives—and that’s fine—but it doesn’t address the fact that mothers bear the burden of the pandemic’s childcare crisis. On this day, women of color will continue to experience poverty more than their white counterparts, and our trans and gender non-conforming fellow humans will continue to be murdered at higher rates than the general population.

To be clear—I don’t mean to take away from the fact that posts of solidarity on International Women’s Day are often well-meaning and genuine. Usually, they are. But without a tradition of impactful action, both by individuals and businesses, International Women’s Day is just a day—not a change agent.

The women’s movement was originally championed by brave women and male allies who worked tirelessly to create a better world for generations to come. If we’re going to continue to honor this holiday, let’s acknowledge women’s progress by following in their footsteps to create real, lasting change. To do that, we need to replace performative posting with meaningful action.

Here are some ideas on where we can start:

Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by donating to help Afghan women and children, whose lives are threatened every day by their tyrannical anti-women government.

Let’s volunteer to escort women who need medical care safely into Planned Parenthood, or donate to make sure women can always safely access reproductive healthcare.

Let’s protest the threats to trans rights in Texas and support folks who have to fight to be recognized as the gender they are.

Let’s amplify the voices of Native women, whose disappearances or murders don’t receive the same media or police attention that white women’s disappearances do.

Let’s fight for equal pay and opportunities for BIPOC women, who have to face systemic racism in addition to sexism.

Let’s support Black-owned businesses because there are people alive today who remember a time when they couldn’t drink from certain water fountains or swim in the same pool as a white person.

Let’s share the number of the Domestic Violence Hotline, because 1 in every 3 women experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetimes. This means it’s extremely likely someone you know is fighting a silent and terrifying battle.

Let’s show our support for Ukraine and protest Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian Women deserve to feel safe in their own country.

Let’s donate to organizations run by women that seek to end “period poverty.” There are girls who have to miss a week of school each month because they do not have access to or can’t afford menstrual products. This happens in many countries throughout the world, but most Americans would be surprised to learn it happens here on our own soil.

Let’s help homeless women by donating to initiatives that help them. We can also pack our old unused purses full of granola bars, water, Tylenol, and menstrual products to give to homeless women we see.

Let’s volunteer to cook some meals or help with housework for women in our community that struggle with chronic health issues or are disabled. Women are often disproportionately affected by chronic illnesses like autoimmune diseases and are less likely to be listened to and taken seriously by their doctors.

Recognizing women’s achievements and progress around the world should be just the start of International Women's Day. Let's create a tradition of lasting change that will improve women’s lives all year long.


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