One criticism of American feminism is that it has been too insular, too focused on issues that affect only American women. (This criticism is related to the one that it is also too white and middle-to-upper-class.) In recent decades this has been changing, but I think we are still too focused on the U.S. This isn’t surprising considering how few Americans pay any attention to what is going on around the world.
Participation in International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8th, can help to correct that. IWD was first proposed by Clara Zetkin, a German activist who worked with Rosa Luxemburg and was a fighter for women’s rights. The first official observance was in 1911. (Next year will be its centennial celebration.) It was first celebrated by the United Nations in 1975, which also proclaimed that year to be “International Women’s Year.” (For a timeline relating to IWD, click here.)
IWD is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
And yet IWD is still relatively unknown in the U.S. For example, there are 235 events scheduled in the United Kingdom and Ireland for this year but there are only 90 in the U.S. However, these are only events that have registered with the IWD website; we can only hope that there are more out there we just don’t know about. If you know of or are hosting an event and would like to share your information, click here.