International Women’s Day is a holiday that American men have been strategically ignoring for a hundred years. Very, very recently, it’s started to make a comeback outside Europe and the post-Soviet world after a United Nations committee began promoting it. But I’ve been a woman since 1988, and the first I ever caught wind of the holiday was 2011.
The company I was working for had recently been acquired, and our Norwegian parent company treated all the women in the office to an hour-long break in the conference room for some cake. “All the women in the office” between both companies amounted to 6, which is kind of the point. A certain number of my male colleagues were somehow irritated by our treat, bad-mouthing the Norwegians and snubbing the leftover cake. One asked sardonically when International Men’s Day would be. (Fun fact: Every day is International Men’s Day.)
The frustrating thing is, International Women’s Day was basically invented in the United States. At least it was organized for the first time by the Socialist Party in 1909 to honor a female garment workers’ strike the year before. The idea was carried forward by German socialists and became a recurring national holiday in Russia in 1913. Women across Europe used the day as a platform to advance a variety of women’s issues, including voting rights. These days, a lot of the political punch has been lost. Especially in Eastern Europe, Women’s Day has become almost indistinguishable from Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Women are “celebrated” for being pretty and fertile.
Here in Kazakhstan, the whole country has a long weekend and the grocery store is hilariously full of middle aged men scrambling to figure out what to cook for their wives tonight. I barely got my hands on the second to last bag of rice, so I’m assuming they’re all going to make plov. It’s impossible to mess up.
Happy International Women’s Day!
С праздником Восьмого Марта!