International Women’s Day

International Women's Day is being celebrated by women's groups around the world

It was 100 years ago, in 1911, that International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured for the first time, with more than 1 million men and women attending rallies across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It was the start of an energised and vibrant campaign for women’s rights to work; vote; be trained; hold public office; and, ultimately, to end discrimination.

It is of course no great revelation that such discrimination has not been historically overcome, though we should retain some perspective –things are much better now than they were when IWD was first launched. But inevitably revolution begets reaction, and in the wake of significant legislative advances, and the economic advancement of women across our societies, opposition has persisted, with often violent consequences.

The more insidious of these reactionary tendencies are manifested, in the West, at least, in the chimera of ‘post-feminism’ –a dangerous and untimely pseudo-philosophy that attempts to write the obituary for what is still a very much adolescent movement.

The need for feminism has not gone away, even if the women’s movement’s breadth and vibrancy ebbs and flows down the generations. It is not within the nature of human society to reach a stage of post-history: feminism will always need to exist, because of the very fact that counter-revolutionary tendencies and conflict will also always persist.

In 2011, the creep of beauty pageants into our Universities; the rampant misogyny in our streets and workplaces is the malign, attitudinal counterpart of a more structural inequity and discrimination. And, of course, this discrimination is manifested in different ways in different cultures. News of the violent disruption of today’s Women’s March in Tahir Square, Cairo, by groups of men is enough to disquiet the most complacent soul.

But for the same reason that we must reject any entertainment of notions of static, post-historical utopias –wherein gender and class inequality will be magically, permanently resolved- we must equally not despair at the need, 100 years later, for an International Women’s Day.

In the UK alone there are over 460 individual actions listed, including marches, forums, discussions, and direct actions, to mark this most vital and celebrated of international events. We should supplement our natural anger at the extent of discrimination and violence against women, with celebration –for millions of people all around the world are uniting together to do something about it.

Find out what’s happening near you, and celebrate International Women’s Day together.

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