International Woman’s Day is celebrated globally each year on 8th March representing the everyday achievements made by women whilst highlighting the ever lingering issues such as gender equality and women’s rights. The international holiday begun in 1909 in the United States after the 1908 Women’s Workers strike in New York. The day has become a reflection of past struggles and future changes ever since.
Each year a general theme is chosen to celebrate International Women’s Day and this year is no different. 2013’s theme is titled ‘The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum’ reflecting on the past, present and future of gender inequalities whilst looking for change. During the early 1900’s, when the first International Woman’s day was observed, women were spurred on to vocalise their demands for shorter hours, voting rights and better pay. Over 15,000 women protested in the streets of New York in 1908 for political rights. Women growing up in 19th Century had no way of achieving their goals as the heavy stereotype of typical women’s roles overshadowed them; they had no job prospects, no career, and no independence. Most women in employment faced the jobs of Domestic Servants and Teachers whilst earning a considerable amount less than men.
Later on, in the beginning of the 1900’s the well-known feminist group the Suffragettes, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, used force to get their ideas heard. They went to extremes to get what they wanted… the right to vote. They burnt churches, attacked politicians and interfered with the daily routine of Parliament. Without the Suffragettes women would not be living in the fair and open minded society we live in today; they empowered us with the right to vote and ensured we were all given the same political rights as men.
The 1950’s brought more opportunities for women. During the war, women often worked in factories to compensate for the loss of working men, loosening the rigid restrictions on ideal women’s roles after the war. This brought a new level of independence that has developed into the 21st century. Divorce rates were rising, breaking the mould of general family roles. Ironically the media perceptions of women didn’t change, showing images of typical housewives on goods and in magazines, portraying women as dedicated housewives and nothing more.
And now in the 21st Century, men and women have completely equal legal rights with no stereotypical gender roles to conform to. It is now even acceptable to acquire reverse gender roles, with women going to work and men becoming house husbands; looking after children and undertaking household tasks. The past 1000 years of changes definitely represents what International Women’s day stands for, changing society’s stereotypes and gender inequalities for the better; developing and moving away from the traditional expectations of women. I think International Women’s Day has played a huge part in these changes, giving women the courage to voice their opinion and stand up for what they believe in. However, there will always be inequality issues, but passing this belief down to future generations should ensure the prevention of past issues allowing independent women to move forward.
Happy International Women’s Day