International women's day was first observed on February 28th, 1909, in remembrance of the strides made by the women involved in the 1908 Garment strike in the New York. What first started as a call to action against working conditions for thousands of women working low-wages and long hours in factories, came about the idea that women faced injustices that were against the norm, and should be brought to government attention instead of being accepted.
International Women's day started being observed on March 8th after generations of women during the World War I era used this day to protest in support of anti-war efforts, according to The United Nations. While the history of the day, and of the events leading up to International Women’s Day, cannot be denied, many have taken to their social media platforms, and real life to voice their support, or opinions, on the way the day is recognized and celebrated today.
This years International women's day occurred on Tuesday, March 8th, and the energy was different than last year, as many politically involved citizens, especially millennials, took to social media and real life to voice support or new concerns on efforts surrounding International Women’s Day.
“Last year, everyone at my school was so divided, for starters it is because New Hampshire is a very political state. You can support the Women’s marches and celebrate International Women’s day, and still have your own political preference and opinions.” Said Amanda Gould, McNair Scholar at The University of New Hampshire.
After the 2016 presidential election polarized many sides of politics and social change efforts, last year saw large amounts of protests and marches for women’s rights throughout the globe. In late january of last year, nationwide womens marches turned into worldwide marches, as people everywhere came together for the same cause; recognizing the importance of equality for all.
The January 2017, over 3.3 million people marched in solidarity of women and equality for all members of society. With areas of the U.S. such as Denver, Portland, D.C., and New York City having more than 100,00 people attend the marches, many of these attendees were also millennials, the youngest and newest group of voters in the 2016 presidential election.
While the importance of the marches and The Recognition of International Women’s day cannot be denied, many bring up other opinions on what the day means to them given their respective intersections within society. In addition, given Millennials are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to express opinions and share news and political articles, many had a lot to say about the labeling of March 8th as “International Women’s Day.”
“There are many voices left out of the marches, and recognitions of women’s history, such as International Women’s Day” Said Rebecca Barton, Senior Communications and Women’s Studies Major at UNH.
It is almost naive to deny the fact that there are voices left out of the majority of women empowerment events. With the growing ideas of what being a woman entails, and the growing knowledge about humans physically and mentally, comes the fluidity in how we think about gender. The marches oftentimes focus on reproductive rights, especially since people for generations have been criticizing the amount of say the government- mostly comprised of white, straight men- For example, Trans women are women, so their struggles should also come to the table when discussing the history of women and the fight towards equal gender parity.
Another topic to the conversation brings up the different intersections given different ethnic groups of women. Studies have identified that 62% of non-college educated white women voted for President Trump compared to 45% of college educated white women voted for Trump. When this data was released after the election was over, people were shocked, especially millennial, as people were already still trying to figure out how President Trump won the election after the polls predicted he wouldn’t. With such a high percentage of White Women who voted for Trump, and such a high percentage of white women attending and organizing the marches, some, including me, feel a bit apprehensive on those terms. The marches are about calling out injustice in political and social spheres, but many women experience these inequalities differently, and at various levels.
Black women are some of the highest percentages of people living in poverty. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 21.4% of the women living in poverty are Black Women. Many women who attend these marches were able to miss work, and this is something that many women cannot spare to do- especially in areas outside North America. Is it a stretch to say this is already going to establish a divide between the women who can afford to attend the marches, and those who are working more than one job while living in poverty?
While there is clearly big stuff left out when it comes to the talk and efforts surrounding International Women’s Day, and the Women's Marches across the world, the ability to be able to carry about such recognition is still important. There was a time where these women could have been killed for exercising their freedom of speech, and in some countries, these are still possibilities. It is about taking the foundation we are able to have, and continuing to build on it, seeing as though there are some people who have not been given the room to step on board- and there are many people who need that helping hand to get aboard on their two feet. We cannot just stop at making the fight about reproductive rights only; there is so much more to being a woman than just that.