At the time, women across the US and Europe were demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote, and March 8 was to mark women’s achievements, from social to political, while calling for equality and acceptance.
Despite the fact that it was adopted by the worldwide feminist movement in 1967, International Women’s Day didn’t affiliate with any one group, and sought to bring together women’s organisations, governments and charities.
Traditionally, it was marked with cultural cohesion, rallies, networking, prayer, conferences and marches, while in many countries, it’s a holiday, including Cuba, Afghanistan, China, Nepal and Madagascar (for women only), and in Russia, where it is similar to Mother’s Day.
A tradition hijacked
Sadly, International Women’s Day has turned into a theme park complete with matching T-shirts, feel-good clichés and vapid slogans. It’s been hijacked not just by female-led media, corporate brands, capitalists and academics, but by the worst cases of modern-day fourth-wave ‘feminists’.
Its humble origins seem a long way away when you go to the official website and see partners including McDonalds, Amazon, Oracle and Diageo and other large multinationals “committed to forging a gender equal world.”
On the site, you can purchase tickets to events in your area including leadership summits, networking and female empowerment events talking about equality, diversity and inclusion, if you can afford the fee. Tickets for the three-hour ‘Think Women’s Networking’ event at the Institute of Directors in London for example are £96.
It’s a far cry from the initial ethos of International Women’s Day, which lies in the trade-union movement. Zetkin believed socialism was the only movement that “could truly serve the needs of working-class women” – and that feminism was the “preserve of the upper and middle-classes.”
She would be horrified if she saw how commodified it’s become, with capitalists feeding off it. We are told we need them to hold our hand, while selling us stuff – preferably with their brand name or slogan on it.
There’s a trendy new video from US women’s magazine Girls. Girls. Girls., entitled ‘Be A Lady, They Said’. It features an austere-looking Gen Xer, Cynthia Nixon (Miranda from Sex and the City) reminding us about our endless victimhood.
“Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff,” she goes on and on, telling us about the massive pressure we are under.
The irony is astounding. Is it not female magazines that told us how to get ‘that bikini body’, ‘the perfect Hollywood tan’? Also, does the slogan ‘women dress for other women’ spring to mind?
It seems International Women’s Day is all about pointing out our shortcomings, especially in the West, where women have parity.
The recording studio Abbey Road, for example, will host the first session of ‘Abbey Road Equalise’ in order to – you guessed it – “help motivate more young women to consider production and engineering careers, providing the basic tools, knowledge and support required to get a head start.”
Today, only five percent of all audio engineers are female, which the famous Abbey Road, where the Beatles recorded, hopes to inspire young women to follow in their footsteps.
You’d swear us women weren’t able to tie our own shoelaces. Why don’t people just offer to bring us for a walk in our prams and put a soother in our mouth, seeing as we’re incapable of making decisions ourselves? We have access to the internet, so we can find out about courses ourselves. If we want to work on an oil rig or in a recording studio, we can, no one will stop us.
The last thing women need is brands and corporations to tell us what to do, while preaching about quotas for women in boardrooms and equal pay.
Meanwhile, in the US, the controlled gender pay gap (where all factors such as experience are factored in and the only difference is the employee’s gender) stands at less than 98 cents to the dollar according to PayScale’s report entitled ‘The State of Gender Pay Gap 2019’.
Luckily, International Women’s Day is anything you want it to be and women and men can celebrate in whatever way they see fit.
At Leicester University, the student union has renamed its celebration as International Womxn’s Day, to give it a more trans-friendly vibe with a “more inclusive spelling of ‘women.’”
However, the name change has been branded ‘insulting’ as it was a disservice to the likes of Zetkin and suffragettes who fought for female equality during the 20th century.
‘Disservice’ would not be a strong enough word to describe it. ‘Spinning in their graves’ sounds more apt.
Let’s keep it real, ladies. We don’t need gimmicks, or marketing, scented $300 candles from Gwyneth Paltrow, vagina hats or activists shouting from the rooftops.
Let’s celebrate each other and keep Ms. Zetkin and all those who fought for women’s rights in mind throughout the day. And they can keep the themed T-shirts.