April 01, 2023

COLUMN: Happy International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month! While I’m always proud to be a woman, today is a day I like to really reflect on the amazing women in my life.

Some people don’t like this holiday. I’ve heard people ask why there isn’t an International Men’s Day… they need to remember that in reality, every day is International Men’s Day. (International Men’s Day is Nov. 19.)

What do I mean when I say every day is International Men’s Day? Well, International Women’s Day is all about celebrating women for their accomplishments despite the gender disparity that exists, as well as elevating women’s rights to be equal to men’s rights. As much as we’d all like to deny it, men have an advantage over women in most areas of life. Every year we get closer to gender equality, largely from the work of feminist activists.

Internationalwomensday.com shares some of the history surrounding International Women’s Day, first celebrated in a gathering in 1911. Since that date, women in the United States have gained many rights. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving American women the right to vote. In 1960, the FDA approved the first commercially produced birth control pill. At this time, the pill was only allowed for married women.

JFK signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, and one year later President Johnson signed Title VII into law, banning employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin or sex.

These positives did not ensure gender equality. It wasn’t until 2013 the U.S. military removed its ban against women serving in combat positions. 2016 was the first time a woman received a presidential nomination from a major political party. In 2020, Kamala Harris became the first woman vice president. If we are truly equal, why did it take this long for women to get to these positions?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) shared an updated Global Gender Gap Report in July 2022. In this almost 400 page report, data shows how, on average, women are still at a disadvantage in the global workforce. On page 33, the WEF states “overall, the pandemic has reversed progress on gender parity in labour-force participation.” Globally, less than 65 women work for every 100 men. Men still take up a majority of the leadership roles, with the largest gap being leadership in infrastructure (84% of leadership positions in infrastructure are filled by men).

This doesn’t even start to touch the basic human rights issues being faced by women all over the world. A 2011 article by Amnesty USA shares the worst places to be a woman are Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Somalia and India, “based on a variety of factors including rape and violence, lack of health services, poverty and human trafficking.” While some things have improved in the last 12 years, it has certainly gotten worse in Afghanistan.

According to UNWomen.org, things have turned drastically worse for Afghan women since the Taliban took control. UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said, “Decades of progress on gender equality and women’s rights have been wiped out in mere months. We must continue to act together united in our insistence on guarantees of respect for the full spectrum of women’s rights.” Afghan women’s rights change daily. Currently, women are only allowed to use public transport in the company of a man in her family. The Taliban has banned girls above sixth grade from returning to school. All women are required to wear both “an abaya, the figure-shrouding outer garment, and niqab, a cloth that covers the face except for the eyes,” according to Radio Liberty.

International Women’s Day is important to remember and celebrate. No matter where you live, it is clear that there is still work to be done to make women equal to men. Remember this as you continue through 2023.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.