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International Women's Day: How and why we need to fight for our rights

International Women’s Day isn’t a Hallmark card-giving celebration, writes Harriet Minter, it’s a chance to get our voices heard – not just this day, but every day

by Psychologies

Ten years ago, neither I nor any of my friends would have been able to tell you when International Women’s Day was. Now, my social media feed fills with memes, inspiring quotes and pictures from IWD events. It feels like a celebration.

IWD began 110 years ago, after the Socialist Party of America organised a Women’s Day to campaign for better rights for working women. The following year, the International Socialist Women’s Conference decided to make it a global event and 8 March 1910 became the first official International Women’s Day.

The early days featured marches calling for women’s right to vote, to hold public office and to end employment discrimination – they had an overtly political message.

One day? No way!

In these times, it feels like International Women’s Day has been watered down somewhat. Do we need a day that treats 51 per cent of the population as though they’re a minority? Isn’t there something rather depressing about the fact that we have one day a year to point out all the ways we’re discriminated against and then, for the other 364 days, we just shut up and take it?

The original political message of IWD seems to have been overtaken by one that places hashtag activism at its heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a #girlboss who is #hustling and #makingmoves, but sometimes I really long for an upsurge in anger.

Don’t speak, shout

I remember walking the Women’s March in 2017. All around the world, women came together to pour scorn on the idea that we’d achieved equality. We shouted about rape and claimed ownership over our bodies. We held banners screaming for the right to choose.

In the intervening years, it feels as though that anger has dulled; as though it surged and then the constant battle it faced became too much. There are only so many times you can see another woman discuss details of her rape and be disbelieved, only so many times you can see another man accused of sexual assault still be lauded – before it starts to grind the anger out of you.

So, this year, I’m going to be political about it. I’ve been inspired by climate crisis activists who have brought an urgent issue that was being ignored into the spotlight. We can do this for women too. And I won’t stop shouting until change happens for us.

For weekly wisdom from Harriet Minter, sign up for her newsletter at tinyletter.com/harrietminter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @harrietminter

Image: Anti-austerity women's march in London, 2019, from Getty Images/iStock.