In case you haven’t heard, today is International Women’s Day, and March is Women’s History Month. So, first things first, I’m going to tell you about the history of International Women’s Day because I think it’s pretty cool. (This timeline is on internationalwomensday.com andI encourage you all to go learn more about the values and mission of the campaign.)
- 1908 was the beginning of social unrest and the debate about what women wanted their role to be in society. Thousands of women marched through NYC protesting for shorter working hours, better pay, and the right to vote.
- National Women’s Day was established a year later in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, which until 1913 was celebrated on the last Sunday of February.
- In 1910, the second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin, a leader of the Social Democratic Party in Germany was the first to propose the idea of an International Women’s Day. After a unanimous vote of over 100 women from 17 countries, IWD was established.
- March 19, 1911 was the first ever recognized IWD, celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Millions of men and women attended rallies throughout to campaign for equal rights. (I thought this was pretty cool that at this time, even men were protesting for equal rights. Though, I do find it a bit ridiculous that we are still protesting for many of the same things the women more than 100 years ago were.)
- On the last Sunday of February, 1913, Russian women observed their first IWD. This was also the year March 8th was decided as a date and has obviously not been changed since.
- In March 1917, Russian women were granted the right to vote (!!!) after women went on strike during WWI.
- On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified granting American women the right to vote. (It is important to note here that while the Amendment technically applied to all women, women of color had their rights restricted. Additionally, Native Americans were not allowed to vote in all states until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, despite being granted citizenship beginning in 1924.)
- Skipping quite a few years, IWD was first celebrated by the United Nations in 1975.
- 1996 was the first year IWD had a theme set by the UN. A new theme was adopted annually, this year’s being “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”.
- In the first year of the new millennium, 2000, IWD was not celebrated widely due to the negative connotation that feminism had since adopted.
- In 2011, IWD had been celebrated for 100 years. President Obama also declared March to be Women’s History Month in the U.S.
Right, so now we’re going to get into the meat of this post. And of course, because I love talking about polarizing topics, I’m going to be addressing the question of why we don’t have a International Men’s Day or a Men’s History Month. This is an argument we see quite often, during Black History Month for example, people begin complaining about the lack of White History Month. And if somehow, you haven’t seen any of these campaigns for months and days recognizing the privileged, just search #internationalmensday on Twitter and my point will be very clearly demonstrated.
I don’t know if anyone else questioned this when they were kids, but I know my siblings and I definitely did, and I thought a little anecdote would be an excellent and clear way to introduce what I’m writing about. Probably about every year when we were young (maybe about elementary school), my siblings and I would get smart on Mother’s and Father’s Day. We would be annoying and ask our parents why we didn’t have a “Kid’s Day” to which they would respond that every other day of the year was “Kid’s Day” and that this was a special day just for moms or dads.
This same thing can be related to gender. Why do we recognize a IWD and not International Men’s Day? Because for my entire schooling career, I have learned about men and their accomplishments but had to seek out information about things women did. Men do not need to feel empowered, they do not need a day to fight for their rights, and they don’t need a day or even a month to learn about impressive men throughout history. Men never had to fight for their right to be present in the work place, in society, or anywhere else. Men never had to fight to have their voices heard but I still do. I still need to fight for those women who have less of a voice than myself. This is why IWD exists. This is a single day to bring the attention of women’s rights and accomplishments to the whole world at the same time.
The purpose of Women’s History Month is to put women back in the narrative. The accomplishments of women are often brushed over by that of a man’s. Open any history book ever and you’ll learn about accomplishments by men. But do me a favor and come up with historical women you know enough about to confidently have a conversation about. Maybe not for the audience of this blog, but I bet a lot of people would have trouble coming up with a name they didn’t briefly discuss in their history or science classes in high school. Hell, I can’t even come up with as many as I wish I could. But to prove my point, do the same thing with men and I’m sure you can come up with at least 10 just off the top of your head. Women’s History Month exists because we are taught disproportionately about men, and it’s not because women didn’t accomplish great things until more recently because that’s just not true.
I’m not really sure how to sum this up, considering I didn’t really think too much about what I was going to say until like right now. Men and women both do amazing things, but women deserve to have their work recognized too. Women deserve to be learned about in schools. Women deserve everything that men have because we deserve basic rights. We deserve a day to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of women around the world and to recognize the continued push for equal rights. We deserve a month to teach each other and ourselves about the women who changed the course of history. If you want to try and make a compelling argument as to why we should have an International Men’s Day or a Men’s History Month that isn’t just a counter to feeling “marginalized” by IWD or Women’s History Month, let me know because I’d honestly be interested in hearing someone try to make that argument without belittling women.
Stop trying to silence us because you think you’re entitled to teach me something about men I’ve been learning about since I was a child. Stop trying to argue that men deserve an internationally recognized day as a way to take away from my history.
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