March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD) and it has been etched into my early memory since I was a child growing up in Poland. I recall as the young girl I once was, on that particular day, women were receiving flowers from men in their lives. Fathers, brothers, husbands and male friends were showering their ladies with floral bouquets. Young boys were bringing flowers to their female teachers, women were celebrated everywhere. On each corner of the street, you would spot a woman carrying a bouquet of roses, tulips or freesia.
Why do we celebrate women on this day? IWD is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8 to remind us about the women’s right movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women. It’s a reminder how far we have come as a society, but also it serves as a reminder of the work still ahead of us.
IWD originated from labour movements in North America and Europe during the early 20th century. The earliest version of “Women’s Day” was organized by the Socialist Party of America in New York City on February 28, 1909. It soon spread to other parts of Europe, such as Germany and Russia, to mention a few.
In Poland, these celebrations stemmed from slightly different traditions, and had political connotations. They were inspired by women going on strike in favour of revolution in the early days of communism in Russia and later transplanted to Poland, while the country was still under Soviet influence.
Whatever the roots of the International Women’s Day are, as they differ in various cultures, this day is about celebrating the feminine, the presence of women and our lives. At least, this is my early memory from my childhood and youth
We do not celebrate women on this day in Canada the same way we did back home in Poland. I am usually reminded of International Women’s Day when I read posts on my homepage on social media. Then, I remember, —”Oh, yes, it’s International Women’s Day.” Women write posts in support of their female friends and wish all ladies Happy International Women’s Day. It’s very rare that I see or hear any acknowledgment of this day coming from men. It’s almost like we women remind ourselves how important we are in society, but I feel that men are excluded from the celebration. It’s almost like we say to ourselves, we do not need men to tell us we are important.
In my mind, this is very peculiar phenomena and something I have been struggling with in our culture. After all, the celebration of International Women’s Day came from the tradition of all the issues brought up by the feminists who fought a long battle seeking equality between sexes. They demanded equal pay for the same type of work, the right to vote, the right to education, etc. Somewhere along this fight, both men and women lost a part of their identity. We are confused.
Who are we, women? What does it mean, “we are equal”? Does it mean we are the same? Are we like men? Because if we are like men, then we don’t need men in our lives, because the polarities between genders got so neutralized, that men treat women like their buddies and women don’t have any expectations to be treated like ladies. We became educated and hold important leading roles in our organization, we know how to balance our bank account, but in our personal relationships, we are exhausted. Our emotional needs are not met. I have extended the model of our society into personal relationships because it’s simply inevitable, our personal relationships are mirrors of our social structure, how we relate to each other.
For example, I observed as a young girl, that women in Poland were able to hold important roles, significant positions in government or organizations, but men were not afraid of treating a woman like a lady, holding a door for her, showering her with flowers. It was understood without saying, we were women, we were not like men. In Canada, these polarities are very much neutralized. We are just comrades, there is no distinction here. As I write this, I realize I will not be able to express all in this short blog, but what I am simply referring to is our nature, our biology that governs our emotions, like in the famous book of Dr. Gray, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. It’s clear we are different creatures.
My favourite poem, Portrait of the Women by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, expresses the essence of woman well. The lines, “Weak yet lifting the weightiest burdens” and “doesn’t know what this screw is for and will build a bridge,” and “naïve, yet giving the best advice” echoes a G.D. Anderson quote, “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
How would you like to be celebrated on this day, March 8, if you identify as a woman? If you are a man, how do you think we should celebrate the feminine on this day? Are you aware of International Women’s Day? Or is it like any other day in the calendar?