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Is International Women’s Day good for women?

I'm not a big fan of International or National Anything Days. I'm not convinced that these arbitrary calendric celebrations necessarily do all that much to improve public understanding and recognition of the issues being celebrated.
Rosie the Riveter in reality, 1939 Boeing
Rosie the Riveter in reality, 1939 Boeing
Library of Congress


Now that I have your attention, let me quickly emphasize that I’m not saying International Women’s Day is necessarily bad for women.

But I’m not sure it is a good thing, and not for the sexist reasons you may assume my gender inclines me to hold.

Disclosure: I’m not a big fan of International or National Anything Days. I’m not convinced that these arbitrary calendrical celebrations necessarily do all that much to improve public understanding and recognition of the issues being celebrated.

It’s just as possible to argue that by making something a ‘special cause’ for the day you relieve us all of the obligation to consider it as an ongoing embedded concern we should be talking about every day. Does anyone have any data on that?

Now, International Women’s Day is certainly not as goofy as Pig Day (which we celebrated earlier this week) or International Panic Day (which is either tomorrow or on June 18). And to be clear, I am not trying to compete with this day by noting that today also happens to Be Nasty Day.

Wider recognition of — and action that supports — the immense benefits that come from improving women’s rights, health and political power is perhaps today even more critical for continuing to make progress against povery, injustice and instability.  International Women’s Day deserves to be seen more in the ranks of World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), World Health Day (April 7) or other such marker days when the media and various organizations feel obligated to pay a bit more attention to an issue than they might have otherwise.

But as I wrote last year, A Man’s View of International Women’s Day, it seems odd to focus on half the world’s population as a special cause. I noted in last year’s post a few women who actually took offense at the celebration – because of how it was being celebrated (cupcakes and a minimized focus on oppressive gender politics). Haven’t seen much of that this year. I think there is growing recognition of the benefit of and need for empowering girls and women. But this is perhaps because these are no longer viewed as a special cause but, rather, as fundamental to achieving progress on, well, just about anything.

So let’s all hope for the day we won’t need to have International Women’s Day – just as we certainly don’t need to have an International Man’s Day. But in the meantime, here are some select news stories that, despite my misgivings, I think are pretty good:

CNN Melinda Gates: Why we celebrate International Women’s Day

BBC What if women ruled the world?

Forbes Seven ways women are still behind in the world

Christian Science Monitor How International Women’s Day is being celebrated around the globe

Seattle Globalist Why more women in political leadership will mean fewer women in poverty


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.