In recent years we’ve been so bombarded by gimmicky marketing ploys that draw attention to a certain product or cause that you can be forgiven for treating International Women’s Day with the same disdain as International Kiss A Member of the Same Sex Day, International Trombone week or even National Fig Week. So is it like fig week, just a load of crap, and why do half of the world’s population get only one day, when figs and trombones get a whole week?
Surprisingly, IWD actually predates fig week by roughly a century. It has its roots in socialism and the struggle for equal representation, better pay and working conditions that was fought in the early 1900s. Since then the day’s played host to talks and demonstrations to bring women’s rights to the fore across the globe. The day’s much bigger in other parts of the world and is even an official holiday in many, mostly ex-soviet, countries where’s it similar to Mother’s Day. For example, in Poland it’s customary for men and children to give their womenfolk flowers and small gifts.
In the UK the sense that we’ve made great improvements regarding women’s rights, has meant the emphasis has shifted from political activism to focus instead on celebrating femininity. On its founding day we girls would have marched and protested in the streets of our cities wearing suffrage sashes and faintly ridiculous hats. Now on March 8th we should take to the streets in our hi-tops, skinny jeans and:
a) CELEBRATE femininity & female achievements, EMBRACE our diversity, listen to testimonies and have fun whilst EMPOWERING ourselves,
b) become AWARE of certain medical issues,
c) attend a workshop or seminar, make a pot, bake a cake, knit, watch a film or a performance, attend a photography or art exhibition, sing, participate in a drumming circle,
d) stand together on a bridge.
Why is there no women’s forklift derby event or more reasonably, no scientific or sporting activities arranged for this day? It’s all gone a bit Women’s Institute hasn’t it? But now that knitting circles, village fetes and all things twee have found their own subset of kitsch to inhabit, the things your mother dragged you to as a child have actually become interesting again. So here’s a list of events that genuinely got my excited noise:
1. Sugar & Spice 4: Women In Action, 7/03, Manchester’s Lesbian & Gay Foundation run activity tents & speakers (please god let there be a tombola).
2. Funny Women Stand Up To Stand Out, 11/03 New Players Theatre, London. Empowering comedy workshop.
3. The Great Granny Revolution, 9/03,18:30. Freeview 87, activist grannies tackle aids in South Africa.
4. Shake It For Good, 12/03, CMC Sports Club, Cardiff. Fundraising burlesque evening.
5. Marlborough Brighton, 5/03, female musicians & poets raise money for victims of domestic abuse.
6. Women Working In Textiles, 10/03, Manningham Mills, Bradford. Female life in mills including “peg dolls, sewing fabric fancies” and “health checks”.
7. Wirral International Women’s Day 25/03, Williamson Art Gallery, Wirral. Talk on women in history (never been to Wirral, always wanted to, possibly because it rhymes with squirrel).
8. Bake a Cake – 8/03 Refugee Council , London. Fundraiser for female refugees & child asylum seekers.
That’s just a taster of the events going on around the country and the world; visit http://www.internationalwomensday.com to find similar activities in a town near you.
And what about d? Well, Women for Women International are running a worldwide campaign called Join me on the Bridge. In most major cities across the world women are invited to walk between the city’s bridges and write or draw their vision of peace on white fabric. Sounds a little naff? I don’t think that thousands of women uniting all over the world to put an end to war is naff at all. So meet me on the bridge; I’ll be the one in the fabric fancies defiantly punching the air with my raffle ticket.