Thursday, March 8, 2018

In the Year of #ShePersisted and #MeToo International Women’s Day is # PressforProgress

Today is International Women’s Day.  Rooted in the international push for women’s suffrage and in the labor/socialist movements, the first celebration was held in 1911 on March 19, a date selected to commemorate the 1848 uprisings when the King of Prussia was compelled to acknowledge the power of the people. 
The occasion and date were suggested by Clara Zetkin of the German Social Democratic Party at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910.  Delegates from 17 countries representing trade unions, socialist parties, and working women’s clubs unanimously approved the call.  News of the event, spread by the socialist press and word of mouth helped make the first observance successful in much of Europe with packed meetings, parades, and at least one tense standoff with police

Socialist and working class women were at the heart of early celebrations of International Women's Day.
In 1913, International Women’s Day was moved to its present date of March 8.  Despite the eruption of the First World War, which damaged many international relationships, Women’s Day grew year by year. 
In the wake of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, American unions, the Socialist Party, and later the Communist Party spread the celebration through the next two decades, but because of its radical association, the Suffrage movement and middle class women’s organizations shunned it.

Union members and female labor organiations were also key components while middle class suffrage movements were more cautiously involved.
It faded in this country until it was taken up by new generation of feminists in ‘60’s, largely shorn of its original working class basis. 
In 1975 the United Nations officially began promoting and sponsoring International Women’s Day.  Each year the U.N. designates a theme for the celebration, although individual countries and groups are allowed, even encouraged, to develop their own themes based on their own experiences and challenges.  

Muslim women display International Women's Day #PressforProgress placards.  Many Islamic counties alow only limited public observances while they are banned entirely in both Suni and Sh'ia conservative religious states and have been violently attacked in Iran.  In Turkey where Western oriented women previously enjoyed greater freedom and opportunity than in many Islamic nations, the increasingly oppresive right wing government has clamped down hard, particularly after women took a visible and public leading role in anti-government strikes and street demonstrations a few years ago.  In Isreal Women's Day is often marked by public solidarity between Jewish and Palestinian women and events have been harrased by ultra-Zionists, Jewish settler movements, and right wing political parties.
The theme for 2018 #PressFor Progress.  The International Women’s Day web site describes the theme this way:

With the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away—there  has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more—there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.

And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.
So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there's a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

International Women;s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let's all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.
African women display the palms forward push gesture that is the semi-official salute of #PressFor Progress
Today, it is observed as a national holiday in many nations, although disguised as a version of Mothers’ Day in some conservative societies.  Among the hold outs in designating an official status are many Islamic nations like Iran where attempts to mark the Day with public demonstrations in 2005 were met by police attacks and the jailing of many leading women militants. 
And, of course, in the United States a deep fear and resentment by conservatives of any International celebration, particularly one with Socialist roots and promoted by the United Nations, prevents any official participation, even when it was—or especially because it was—smiled upon and acknowledged by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Do not hold your breath for an official White House proclamation.  At best there may be an incoherent but hostile 3 am toilet Tweet.
In 2017 massive marches in cities across the U.S. on March 8 were accompanied by calls for a general strike by women.  Athough the actions fell short of those goals,  The movement was a radical extention of the Women's March on Washington and sister marches in January.  It was very inclusive of women of color, immigrants, refugees, LBGTQ communities and purposefully reconnected to International Women's Days working class and Socialist roots.
Luckily, that will not prevent activities around the country as the women’s movement broadens and embraces the radical roots of international feminism.

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