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Is International Women's Day an effective way to raise awareness?

By Lauren AguirreMarch 8, 2017

International Women's Day 2015
Women march behind a banners as they join other women's rights advocates in an International Women's Day march in downtown Los Angeles, California on March 8, 2015. Getty Images

March 8 is International Women’s Day. It comes near the beginning of Women’s History Month. But aside from activists, not many people know about these events that are meant to draw attention to women’s contribution to society and women’s issues. Why is that? Is there a better way to highlight women’s issues?

International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world for almost a century. It is a day meant to honor the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The first official International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911. It was celebrated on March 19 in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Denmark. International Women’s Day was a result of the 1910 International Conference of Working Women. Clara Zetkin, a German woman, proposed the idea for the holiday and was unanimously approved by the over 100 women at the conference. The holiday was moved to March 8 in 1913.

 

International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world for almost a century.

Women’s History Month is only officially recognized in the United States. It began as a week-long celebration of women’s contributions to society, culture, and history organized by the school district in Sonoma, California. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation naming the first week of March as Women’s History Week. Six years later, the celebration was expanded by Congress to encompass the entire month.

Unlike Black History Month, these celebrations about women’s contributions are not universally known in the Untied States. These events are discussed briefly as they happen, but the celebrations don’t seem to make nearly as much of an impact as similarly themed celebrations for other groups. Why is this the case?

Is it because many Americans are already aware of the contributions made by women and the issues they face in modern society? Or is the conversation driven by activists not effective enough?

In 2017, the group who organized the Women’s March on Washington have a new campaign: A Day Without A Woman. The goal is to get women across the nation striking for a day from work and from shopping to demonstrate the economic impact women have. It is also meant to highlight economic discrimination women face. Men and women alike are encouraged to wear red on March 8 in support.

Will this campaign be enough to sear International Women’s Day into the nation’s consciousness? Maybe. Several school districts across the country are closing on March 8 due to the sheer amount of teachers taking the day off. About three-quarters of teachers in the United States are women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Other fields that are dominated by women include nursing, waitressing, human resources, social work, counseling, and psychology. We’ll find out Wednesday whether any of these other areas see a decrease in women working.

The main issue with publicizing and promoting issues women face is that women are quite a large group. They make up roughly half of the human population and cut across many other demographic groups. Because of the varying issues facing different groups of women, it can be difficult to find and stick to a cohesive agenda. Getting enough women to subscribe to one agenda or goal can sometimes be a struggle. As a result, the internal arguing within the movement can lead to a muddled message that doesn’t stick quite so well. Maybe the A Day Without A Woman campaign will offer a clear message to the public. Maybe it won’t. Only time will tell.