It’s International Women’s Day, arguably one of the holiest days on the calendar. But like everything else this originally socialist movement — devised by working women who marched for better pay and working conditions — has been slowly and subtly co-opted by capitalism.

In the lead up to IWD 2022 I’ve seen, heard and been targeted ads in every media format from big brands, supermarkets, hospitality venues — you name it.

Whether it’s a lingerie brand doing a 24-hour sale, restaurants putting on IWD specials, or Shell Oil literally changing its name to She’ll (???) in 2020, businesses and not-for-profits are finding ways to gain profits or social standing from this day.

IWD is also honoured in Australia through countless special events — panels, breakfasts, lunches, brunches, morning teas, many of which are hosted or sponsored by corporations.

Even the official IWD campaign itself is backed by huge companies.

Everyone sees the opportunity to sell—*cough* I mean celebrate woman.

But this day isn’t about celebrating women and gender diverse people — that’s something we should be doing all year round — it’s about women’s fight for equality.

The first IWD was held in 1911 and was a day of protests for equal rights for working class women*, not a celebration.

(*Note: just because you have a job does not necessarily mean you are working class. This is not about girlbossing, this is a fight for survival.)

IWD was stared by socialists and was born out of the labour movement in the early 1900s.

Following a working women’s strike in New York in 1908 for better pay the Socialist Party of America declared a National Women’s Day in March 1909.

The idea to honour the protestors came from Ukrainian migrant factory worker, activist and writer Theresa Malkiel. Why aren’t we spending this occasion learning about her? 

A year later, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany Clara Zetkin proposed an International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen where it received unanimous support from members representing 17 countries.

In March 1911, women walked out of work to join tens of thousands in marches across Europe.

Women demanded equal pay for equal work, an eight-hour working day, paid leave and voting rights.

Women and gender diverse people don’t need to be celebrated today — we need a hell of a lot more.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things I and my non-male friends would *love* to see happen in Australia on IWD, instead of pink cupcakes.

  1. Today should be a public holiday in honour of suffrage and the labour movement, the same way we mark Labour Day.

  2. The gals should all get a bonus for having to deal with male nonsense. 

  3. We shouldn’t even have to say this but CLOSE THE GENDER PAY GAP, which is even wider for women of colour.

  4. Our government needs to help every family ensure housework and child-raising labour are distributed equally between guardians, regardless of gender. Right now women still shoulder the most partly because women are given far more parental leave than men.

  5. Birthing parents need super when they’re on maternal or paternal leave. Prime Minister Scott Morrison literally rejected the proposal for superannuation to be added to parental leave today of all days. The fkn audacity.

  6. While we’re on this point the government should mandate all businesses to give parents and menstruating people more paid leave please.

  7. Quotas. We want to see intersectional quotas for all leadership positions in politics and corporations. The meritocracy is a myth.

  8. Our Federal Government needs to stop locking women and children up in indefinite immigration detention.

  9. First Nations women need to stop being murdered in custody.

  10. First Nations children need to stop being forcibly taken from their homes.

  11. Disabled women need safety from rape and domestic violence which in Australia they experience 40 per cent more than non-disabled marginalised groups.

  12. Our children need better education around sex, bodies, consent and respect.

  13. We need to stop being judged.

  14. We need men to go to therapy.

  15. Women, gender diverse people and queer people need to feel safe and heard and believed by healthcare professionals.

  16. Women, gender diverse people and queer people need better access to mental healthcare.

  17. Trans women need the same rights and legal protections as every woman in Australia.

  18. Sex workers need the same rights and legal protections as every worker in Australia.

  19. We need to stop paying the “pink tax” for products marketed to women that do the exact same job as the equivalent product for men — like razors, skincare, clothes and even kids’ toys.

  20. We need to stop being bullied, harassed, abused, assaulted, raped and murdered.

No doubt there are countless more to add to the list but the bottom line is: women’s rights are human rights. I can’t believe we’re still having to talk about this and publish articles on this after 114 years. 

Image: Getty Images / Carla Gottgens