February 22, 2021
And that's the tee... on International Women's Day 2021
Feels like just yesterday that we were saying good riddance to 2020 and ringing in the new year, doesn’t it? But just like that, we’re two full months into another weird year, rife with uncertainty and fatigue, but also hope—that change for the better is on its merry way. It’s not so different from the way we think about our work as feminist activists, really, which demands constant attention and action in the face of adversity and an abiding hope for a brighter future.
It’s why now, more than ever, we’re psyched to usher in Women’s History Month with our third edition of "And That’s the Tee." Each month, we spill the tea on one of our favorite Feminista graphic tees, and this month it’s none other than our celebratory Int’l Women’s Day 2021 resistance tee.
So grab yourself some new feminist threads or just listen in as we give you the inside scoop on this historic feminist holiday—starting with its epic origin story and continuing through more than a century of highlights until we land in the present: March 8th, a.k.a. International Women’s Day 2021. Let’s do this, ladies.
So what is International Women’s Day?
According to the U.N., which made it an official holiday back in 1977, March 8th is our annual opportunity “to reflect on progress made, to call for change and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women’s rights.”
It's a broad definition, to be sure, but that’s because the holiday’s history is so incredibly varied, as it’s been introduced and reinterpreted in different countries across the globe over the last hundred years. In some places, it looks a lot like our version of Mother’s Day—people dress up to mark the day and gifts are given in a gesture of appreciation for women.
In Italy, for example, it’s customary to give bouquets of yellow mimosa flowers as a sign of gratitude and celebration. In Côte d’Ivoire, a new textile print is designed and distributed each year to individuals and families, who create unique articles of clothing out of the same wax fabric and come together on IWD for events based on women’s education and economic empowerment—in community-coordinated outfits! So cool.
How do we celebrate today?
In recent years, the date has been used to organize around timely feminist causes. In 2017, following the historic Women’s March on Washington D.C. just two months earlier, International Women’s Day was observed with a strike called “A Day Without a Woman,” in which women were encouraged to take the day off work, only spend money at women- and minority-owned businesses, and wear red in solidarity.
Gatherings formed in almost every major U.S. city that day—from San Francisco City Hall to Trump Towers in New York—where women demanded open borders and denounced the bigotry and sexism shown by the new president. In 2018, rallies took place in Seoul, South Korea to protest alleged sexual abuse by a prominent government official–an extension of the #MeToo movement unfolding around the world.
And just last year—even in the midst of a pandemic—protests broke out on several continents. In Chile, tens of thousands gathered to fight for women’s rights and policy change, and many donned green scarves in solidarity with their Argentinian neighbors, fighting to legalize elective abortion. In Pakistan, women and allies took to the streets and rallied for something similar, demanding respect and carrying signs with the sentiment: “my body, my choice.”
Why March 8th? And when did it begin?
Today, International Women’s Day is a global phenomenon and an official holiday in over 20 countries, from Afghanistan to Cuba to Laos, but it has its origins in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, when women’s suffrage and labor movements were just starting to gain traction.
On February, 23, 1909, over 15,000 women gathered in New York City to protest low pay and unfair working conditions and to demand the right to vote. This demonstration was organized by the Socialist Party of America and became known as the first National Woman’s Day—so the tradition began. Over the next few years, countries like Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland followed suit, holding demonstrations of their own on a predetermined date, always in late winter/early spring.
When World War I began, living and working conditions for women only got worse. As men around the world went off to war, women were left to tend to both their domestic duties and take on additional work, often in the midst of food shortages and sometimes even in battle zones. This fanned the flames within the movement, until finally on March 8, 1917, tens of thousands of women took to the streets in Russia to demand change. Just four days later, those women won the right to vote.
That momentous feminist victory solidified March 8th as the official International Women’s Day, which has been carried on by women all around the world ever since. And in recent years, the holiday seems to have taken on new significance in the U.S., so let's carry the torch, ladies! When women come together around a common goal, amazing things can happen. We’ve seen it time and time again.
What about International Women’s Day 2021?
This year, International Women’s Day takes place on a Monday so let’s start next week off right, shall we? Make plans to text your friends and family and thank the inspirational women in your life. We’ll be back next week to share some recommendations for how to celebrate this ever-evolving feminist holiday from the safety of your own home.
So if you’re not already signed up, get on our email list and get your feminist fix each and every week when we send you info, inspo, and—yes!—even promos via our kickass newsletter/blog: The F Word. And if you feel so inclined, get yourself an International Women’s Day 2021 t shirt to commemorate the day in style. Given that we still don’t really have anywhere to go, we expect that your buddies (via FaceTime and/or Zoom and/or Skype and/or whatever) will be very impressed with your commitment to the cause ;)
Until next time, Feministas, happy Women’s History Month!