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International Women’s Day: A missed opportunity

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Illustration by Sean Rogers


I dread International Women’s Day every year. In high school, I found the day somewhat exhilarating, where public attention focused on the struggles and triumphs of women worldwide. This optimism faded. I now find myself cynical about the whole holiday and unsure of what, if anything, I should do to celebrate. 


International Women’s Day has its roots in radical labor organizers setting aside a day to celebrate women’s contributions. The United Nations recognized it as an annual holiday and standardized the date to March 8 in 1975. Each year, the holiday has a theme based on a current issue affecting women. While the holiday continues to be tied to labor and social movements in some countries, it has almost no political or social meaning in the United States.


Each International Women’s Day theme is not frequently mentioned in reporting or social media posts. Instead, the day becomes a generic celebration. Honoring all women without a theme or specific message makes the holiday meaningless.


Corporations are the most visible presence in the media on International Women’s Day. Their clumsy posts about supporting women range from corporate feminism, “Go get it girl,” non-specific statements, “We here at INSERT COMPANY are celebrating International Women’s Day,” or straight-up sexism, like the infamous Burger King tweet from International Women’s Day 2022, “Women Belong in the kitchen.”


Corporate statements on International Women’s Day have no impact other than fueling the occasional Twitter beef. They are meaningless statements. In reality, corporations continue to foster unsafe working conditions for their women employees, sell products marketed to women at higher prices, and make their products in factories that affect the reproductive health of women across the Global South. 


Individuals post about issues affecting certain populations of women and spread legitimate knowledge about how to support women. However, these posts are a drop in the ocean when assessing material about International Women’s Day with a broad reach in the United States. Many of these issues, such as the reproductive injustice and sexual violence experienced by women in Palestine, the Congo, and Sudan, are not topics covered by large media companies either. These important topics spread through social circles rather than media outlets. 


International Women’s Day within communities can be empowering, and I appreciate the reminder to set aside time to discuss women. However, we cannot accept the domination of corporate messaging on International Women’s Day. 

Caroline Geer is from Northville, Mich.

Her majors are race and ethnic studies and sociology/anthropology.

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