International Women’s Day is celebrated in some countries and is completely unknown in the others. It is a big holiday in Russia, but the symbolic meaning has changed from the equal rights day to a day when all women get praise for being women.
The origins of that day are believed to go to 8th of March 1857, when female workers of textile industry went on strike in New York, demanding for better work conditions and higher salaries. In spring of 1908 women of New York City went on another street meeting, demanding women’s suffrage (the right of women to vote on the same terms as men).
In 1910 German communist Clara Zetkin offered to establish a special day in honor of fighting for equal rights for women. Since then women in different countries conducted meetings and went on strikes on a first week of spring to fight for their rights – to be treated equally, to vote and to receive equal payment and work benefits. International Women’s Day was officially acknowledged by the United Nations in 1975.
I am not a historian; therefore I was a bit confused by the different stories about the origins of the International Women’s Day and differences in the timelines, coming from the different sources. I decided to share with you the UN Women Watch piece on IWD, since that is the source I do trust.
And since my blogger’s experience shows that not many readers click on the outbound links, I also provide a video from that article here. Watch it, it is interesting and moving:
No, it is well known and celebrated in some countries and completely unheard of in the others. From my personal experience I know that it is celebrated in Russia and other Eastern European countries, in Latin America and in Japan. I have asked my friends on Facebook last night whether they celebrate IWD in their countries. I found interesting that the US women do not know about that event, although their ancestors have started the women equal rights movement.
I want to quote my friend, who lives in the Dominican Republic:
In the Dominican Republic they do make mention of it. A lot of women here are influential personalities in Communications and other fields like Medicine and Arts. It’s more about women empowerment and how far we have come. Its not a holiday, everybody goes to work and the country continues its regular schedule, but some places and institutions have special activities including art and music showcasing the works of women. And of course its a special commercial day to go shopping, spa treatments, beauty treatments, etc… so any venue related to those appealing things for women will offer specials for the day.
I completely agree with such approach and the wording. “Women empowerment and how far we have come” – that phrase captures the essence of the International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrates the successful fight of women from all over the world for their rights, full equality with men, democracy and peace.
However, in Russia, International Women’s Day’s meaning had completely altered over the years. I think that you will be amused to read about that.
International Women’s Day in Russia has transformed in a day, when every girl or woman is congratulated and praised on being a female. I personally find that extremely weird. I want to be praised for being an expert in marketing, a good skier, a good photographer or a good friend/spouse/daughter etc. Being born as a girl was not my personal achievement – it was just a 49% probability.
Don’t get me wrong – I love to hear compliments and receive flowers and nice gifts. But I would rather get all that when men truly feel like it, not on the special day, when they are obliged to do so.
Here in Russia, 8th of March is an official holiday and a day off from work since 1965. This year 8th of March happens to fall on Saturday, so according to our rules – the following Monday is a day off. So the craziness actually began on 7th of March, when male colleagues, congratulate all females in the office.
Women dress up for the occasion; men are on their best behavior and appear with flowers and chocolates. Director of any company will make a speech, saying how much all male employees value presence of “the best half of the population” at the workplace. Afterwards – there will be an office party or a more posh corporate event at one of the city restaurants.
On 8th of March any girl or woman is treated like a princess. She will be spared of any household chores; husband and sons will clean the house, cook breakfast and other meals and might even bake the cake. Why is that a big deal? All other 364 days Russian men typically abstain from household chores. So, that day is the day for a woman to relax, watch TV, go to spa or do anything else she feels like doing.
The majority of women adores that holiday. The majority of men hates it, but understands that they have to comply with the rules.
That is the day when men have to congratulate all women they know – wife, mom, sister, grandmothers, aunts, all female colleagues and friends, teachers at the kids school and any other women they meet during the day. Men are expected to give flowers (yellow mimosas or tulips) to most of them and give a good present to the wife or girlfriend. And they have to say – “Congratulations with the 8th of March” thousand time during that day.
Women are also expected to congratulate other women. Gifts and flowers are obligatory for close female relatives and optional for acquaintances. At the workplace women do not bring flowers to the colleagues.
I think that partially the popularity of 8th of March could be explained – we don’t have the Mother’s Day in Russia and as I wrote in Dating in Russia, St’Val is also not universally celebrated. So that is the day, which is highly romantic and in the same time, enhances family relations.
Yes, there is! That day is exactly 2 weeks before 8th of March – on Feb 23rd. Initially that was a Red Army Day, then it transformed in a Defender of the Fatherland Day. Army connotations were strong at first, congratulations were for men, who currently serve in the army or used to be on duty. But as time passed – that day transformed in a universal Men’s Day. So men do get their share of praise and love on that day!
Power to the Women of the World! Celebrate or not – but remember how far we have come! I would love if you share with me and other readers your stories about International Women’s Day in your countries in the comments to this post!
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.