A Lesson in the History of International Women\’s Day to Share with Your Kids

The International Women's Day 1981 Rally

March 8 is celebrated around the world as International Women's Day (IWD). In several countries, it's a federally recognized holiday, commemorated by celebrations, demonstrations, and events that focus on raising awareness of social and political issues that affect women. But until recently, the U.N. designated holiday hasn’t gotten much attention in the U.S. And I can admit, I didn't give it much attention, either.

Until the rise of third-wave feminism and the #MeToo movement, most folks in the states just didn’t know what was special about March 8. We weren’t purposefully ignoring it—a lot of us just didn’t know it was a thing. Now we do though, and here's where I'm starting when it comes to teaching my kids what International Women's Day is all about when they ask questions.

When Did International Women’s Day Start?

The first Women’s Day took place in New York City in 1909 and was organized by the Socialist Party of America. It morphed into International Women’s Day in 1911 and has been celebrated around the world ever since. 

In 1975, the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day as part of the Year of the Woman, and in 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 Women’s History Week. Since, ever sitting President issues a Presidential Proclamation on International Women’s Day to venerate the accomplishments of American Women. 

Why Do We Need an International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day provides women with a platform to showcase the issues, both social and political, to bring attention to the issues that we face. Sexism and misogyny, discrimination, and gender disparity are common across the globe–IWD provides women with a spotlight to shine on the inequalities we face at the hands of patriarchal societies.

What is the Theme of IWD 2020?

This year, the theme of IWD is #EachForEqual, and it's a rallying cry for women’s rights across the globe. Closing the gender pay gap, ensuring women receive the same rights as men around the world, and raising up women, recognizing their accomplishments, and setting the stage for advocacy and awareness are at the heart of the day. 

But it should be more than just shining a light on inequality. IWD should be a day of activism–not a Mother’s Day for feminists. Going back to the roots of IWD, to the radical message it brought in its infancy–that women deserve more than they’re getting, that they deserve equality and respect, that they are not fodder for the patriarchy–is what IWD is about and that message should persist.

Why Should Men Care About IWD?

There’s a paradigm shift happening in our culture, one where women are refusing to be silenced, refusing to play the roles they’ve historically been forced to fill. Women are wrenching control of their narrative as individuals and as a group, and men would do well to listen to what they have to say. 

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements were just the beginning. Women are here, we’re tired of business as usual, and we’re going to start calling our own shots. 

That’s how I’m explaining IWD to my boys. How will you explain it to yours?

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