More than 40 years ago, International Women’s Day began to be officially commemorated on March 8th. It is very common for this day to be considered a joyful celebration, but is it a day to celebrate? Are events like this necessary nowadays? What role does feminism play in today’s society? March 8th, Women’s Day: Celebration or Fight?
The general idea underlying our society is that on March 8th, the important role of women in humanity is celebrated and even women are congratulated for being women. However, can we consider this day as a celebration? Or perhaps, it would be better defined as a „day of struggle”? The answer can be found in the origin of this commemoration. Thus, there are numerous precedents and circumstances that led to the appearance and institutionalization of this event.
One of the most notable dates back to February 1909, when around 15,000 women marched through New York demanding women’s suffrage and better working conditions. Nine months later, in November 1909, the so-called „shirtwaist strike” took place, a strike in the shirt industry in New York that mobilized 20,000 workers, mostly women. The strike lasted eleven weeks and succeeded in improving the working conditions for the strikers.
In Europe, the first celebration of Women’s Day took place on March 19, 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland, after the „2nd International Conference of Socialist Women” held in Copenhagen in 1910, where equal rights for women in terms of universal suffrage, access to education, non-discrimination in employment, and other fundamental rights were demanded.
A few days later, on March 25, 1911, the tragic fire at the Triangle Waist Co. garment factory in New York occurred, resulting in the death of more than 140 workers, mostly women, highlighting the precarious conditions in which they worked. These events, along with all those that took place in other countries, gave rise to International Women’s Day, and that is why more than a celebration, this day is a time for reflection and a fight for women’s equal participation in society with men, for their complete development as individuals, and for gender equality at all levels.
In 1914, on the eve of World War I, women held rallies around March 8th in many European countries, demanding their rights. The celebration gradually spread to more countries, also protesting against the disasters of war. Following this trend, Russia adopted Women’s Day after the Communist Revolution of 1917. Many countries continued to join over the years, and it was first celebrated in China in 1922 and in Spain since 1936.
At this point, considering that this event has existed for over 100 years, it may be natural to ask: is this day still necessary? What aspects still need to be changed in order to achieve gender equality? What is Feminism, and why is it necessary nowadays?
Currently, feminism is very present in our society, from informal debates among friends to its presence in the media. This initially seems like a positive and comforting fact, however, feminism is not always considered the social movement and useful tool for change that it constitutes, as its definition is often misunderstood or distorted. This is the case with the term „feminazi,” a pejorative term used to refer to feminism, creating a discourse in which feminists are associated with Nazism. It is therefore relevant to highlight its official definition. According to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), feminism is defined as: „principle of equality of rights between men and women.” Therefore, feminism does not seek to achieve the superiority of women in any area of society or any other purpose that does not simply respond to gender equality in all areas of life.
That being said, it is worth asking: why is a term that only refers to women used for a movement that promotes equality? Why not call it „egalitarianism” or any other more neutral term? Well, first of all, it makes sense that the gender aspect is present in the name of this movement since, otherwise, a term like „egalitarianism” could refer to equality of races, for example. On the other hand, until now, we have been immersed in a patriarchal society where women have been subordinate to the privileged position of men. Therefore, it is logical that this movement seeks to empower women and position them at the same level as men in all aspects, using a more defining term, in order to achieve equity rather than equality. However, it is not an exclusive term, as men also play an essential role in this work, and rather than excluding one gender, the goal is to unite forces towards a more equal and just society.
In any case, these gender inequalities appear in many areas of everyday life, which leads us to state that feminism, properly understood, is still very necessary today. The inequality between men and women in numbers can be seen clearly. These are some data regarding Spanish society (Source: INE) that highlight the importance of feminist actions today:
Higher Education: In Spain, in 2017, the percentage of women with higher education degrees was 53.3% compared to 46.7% of men. In the academic year 2017-2018, 55.1% of all students enrolled in the university system were women, while 44.9% were men. In the same academic year, 54.8% of students enrolled in official master’s degree programs were women, and in total, 57.8% of students who completed official master’s degree studies were women.
Employment: In Spain, in 2018, the employment rate for women was 44%, while for men it was 55.7%. The gender gap in employment rates for the population aged 16 and over reached a value of 11.7 points.
Salary: In 2017, a woman’s average annual salary was 22.8% lower than that of a man, a clear example of gender inequality.
Pensions: Regarding pensions, the difference is also significant. According to 2018 data, female pensioners receive an average of 740.2 euros per month, while their male counterparts receive around 1,162.3 euros.
Work-life balance: In 2015, 77.5% of working women compared to 32.9% of working men carried out daily cooking and household chores. In the same year, 47.4% of working women and 31.5% of working men had daily responsibilities for the care and education of their children or grandchildren.
Political Power: In the political sphere, there is a trend towards equality. In the Congress of Deputies, 44% are women. In the Council of Ministers, which represents the executive power, women accounted for 47.8% of all ministers.
Economic Power: However, there is still a long way to go in the business world. According to the Women’s Institute, women represented 23.3% of all board members in the companies of the Ibex 35 in the second semester of 2018.
As observed, this gender inequality appears in many areas of everyday life, which leads us to conclude without a doubt that feminism, when properly interpreted, remains very necessary today. Feminism from the perspective of Psychology: How does it affect…