Today is March 8th, International Women’s Day. It’s celebrated around the world, but not in the United States of America.
In Kazakhstan, where I served in the Peace Corps, this holiday is a BIG DEAL Women held their heads high on this day, confidently walking down the street with bouquets of flowers and huge smiles on their faces. You definitely knew something was up because usually they were quite stoic and didn’t smile much.
From what I noticed during my time in Kazakhstan, women held up that country. After Kazakhstan became independent from the Soviet Union, women emerged as leaders in government offices, business owners, and heads of households in the newly capitalist country. In the bazaar (market), mostly women ran the stands. I barely saw any men there.
In fact, many men were MIA. My host father during my pre-service training was gone for days at a time working. Other men were in the army. A lot of the men died early deaths from alcoholism, including my former boss who showed up to work drunk nearly every day. Toward the end of my service, his skin was yellow from cirrhosis of the liver.
International Women’s Day in Kazakhstan was the one day in the year that women were celebrated. If they had a husband at home, the wife got to take a breather while the husband did the bulk of the housework and cooking.
Just for the day.
History of International Women’s Day
Fiery women since the dawn of time have demonstrated their strength and determination as they fought for equal rights. As momentum around the world gained steam over the inequities that women faced in the workplace and beyond, International Women’s Day was officially honored in Western European countries in 1911.
International Women’s Day was designated on March 8th a few years later. In 1917 in Russia, women rose up and demanded “bread and peace” for the end of WWI and food shortages. They were granted the right to vote shortly after, 3 years before the 19th Amendment in the United States. The holiday spread throughout the communist nations, which explains why Kazakhstan celebrated it with such gusto. You can read more about the history on the International Women’s Day website or Wikipedia.
International Women’s Day in the United States
Most Americans don’t know about International Women’s Day (including my husband, “Huh? What’s that?”). It’s true that Americans “celebrate” Women’s History Month in March. But naturally the U.S. doesn’t celebrate International Women’s Day because the rest of the world does. Like with many things, the U.S. does not go with the flow on issues the rest of the world cares about (ah-hem, climate change) due to the independence of thought this country was built on and stubbornness.
Let’s not forget the fact that this country was also built on old white men (founding fathers) determined to keep women in their place. That’s why it’s so nice to finally see a woman (of color, no less) as our American vice-president!
Gender Disparity in the Workplace
Unfortunately, sexism is alive and well even today. It’s apparent in the workplace. Most women have experienced discrimination at some point in their lives, whether it was sexual harassment, being overlooked for promotions, or not getting paid as much as your male coworkers. It even exists in the home with the majority of the household chores (cooking, cleaning, and childcare) falling more heavily on the woman’s shoulder.
And like with a lot of things, COVID only put a magnifying glass on the gender disparity, with more women dropping out of the workforce because they were more likely to become unemployed (for example, in service industry jobs) or had to stay home to take care of the kids.
The statistics show that even in 2021, gender inequality still exists. Although the situation is getting better, there is still that pay gap. The underlying message for this disparity is that women don’t provide as much value with their work. And that’s bullsh*t!
In 2021, women only make $0.82 for every $1.00 that a man makes. The gender pay gap is worse for women of color:
- And though it appears that Asian women are more likely to have pay equity with white males, Asian women face the widest gap among the racial groups in advancing their careers and attain leadership roles.
- In the U.S. Senate, women make up only 24%. In the House of Representatives, women make up 27%.
Making Some Headway
Although the stats above could use improvement, the good news is that we are making strides. From the #MeToo movement to the Women’s March after Trump’s inauguration, more women are fighting the disparity, mistreatment, and misogyny. More women are in leadership roles and generally represented than in the past few decades.
However, we still have work to do. And it won’t happen without women (and men) supporting each other and advocating for what’s right. That’s why Americans should celebrate March 8th!
Ways that Americans can Celebrate International Women’s Day
Here are some ways that those of us living in the U.S.A. can celebrate International Women’s Day:
- Support women-owned businesses this month.
- Take a break! Order dinner out, book a massage or pedicure, hire someone to clean your house. Relax for the day and appreciate all that you do to hold up your world.
- Read up on some women that have blazed the trail for other women
- Do something nice for another mom that is hustling to make it work in their household, such as a single mom friend.
- Advocate for yourself. Make a plan to ask for that raise at your next review. Or ask your family TODAY to help out around the house some more!
Let’s join the movement. A website dedicated to International Women’s Day can be found here.
I highly recommend the book “Half the Sky” to celebrate this holiday. Also, check out your libraries’ recommendations for what to read during Women’s History Month!
How do you celebrate International’s Day? What practices do you recommend for the rest of us to celebrate womanhood and equal rights? Comment below!
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