International Women's Day (March 8) isn't as well known as Mother's Day in the United States. But it should be. This year, especially, we should be paying attention because it's the 100th anniversary.
International Women's Day observes all of the economic, political, and social achievements of women past and present and is observed in many countries all around the world. The first celebration was in 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland. Then, over a million men and women attended rallies to campaign for women's rights to work, vote, and hold public office. This year over 200 events are slated to occur in the U.S. alone. And yet, so few people know about it.
Instead, we celebrate Mother's Day in May and make it as big as the Fourth of July.
It isn't that Mother's Day doesn't matter. Of course it does. I love my day to spend time with my children and be recognized for the contribution I'm making to society as a mom. But I also have been on the "other side" of Mother's Day, having lost my mom at 16. It's a lonely place and, for many, it's the worst day on the calendar.
That may seem dramatic to a woman who hasn't experienced infertility or lost her mom at a young age (or any age, really) or been aging rapidly and leaving her childbearing years behind, but for those of us who have, Mother's Day isn't a happy day. But even discounting the personal pain that the day causes many, why should we not have a more inclusive day that celebrates the accomplishments of women in general, not just mothers?
In other countries, it's the day that ALL women (not just moms or girlfriends) receive flowers. It's a day to celebrate the women that fought and sacrificed for women's rights to vote, to be educated and work outside the house, and to be equal to men.
Mother's Day marginalizes us to the role that is easiest (for some) for us to biologically fulfill. This isn't to say motherhood is easy or that it shouldn't have its day, but, as my husband always says on Valentine's Day, in a good family, every day is Mother's Day. Children should always want to treat their mothers with respect and honor them, but a day where we truly include and celebrate all women is more important.
We have come a long way (baby!) since 1911, but we still have a long way to go, and I would rather, for both my son's and daughter's sake, that we focus on the accomplishments of women as a whole instead of mothers only. We still have a long way to go before women are earning the same as men and have rights and respect in our society. Look no further than the horrible things said about Hillary Rodham Clinton on her campaign trail. No one mocked Obama's pantsuits or his wide hips. No one even said a word about John McCain's looks, at least not anyone we listened to.
If you think women have arrived, think again. Today is a day to look back on all we HAVE accomplished and also to set our sights on new accomplishments. It's an inclusive day full of hope and promise. And everyone has a woman in their life they can thank today. I say let's make Mother's Day the lesser holiday and pump this one up more.
Do you celebrate International Women's Day?
Image via International Women's Day