Why I love International Women’s Day

8 Mar

On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, here are three things I love about it:

Happy Festa della Donna

The spirit: My first experience of International Women’s Day was 20 years ago in a little town outside Milan, where the women, for one day a year (8 March), would give each other Mimosa, and all go on a night out. Restaurants were booked out with up to four generations of women per family, while nightclubs held special Festa della Donna nights for the ladies (and which were packed with single men, of all ages, keen to try their luck!) Back then, I had never heard of Women’s Day, as it had never been celebrated in the UK, and so I had no idea it was an international event – or that it meant anything other than a night out for all Italian women – not realising it was a celebration of women’s achievements worldwide.

The making a point: All the arguments about whether women are still feminists, and shouldn’t men be involved in the fight for equality, from Annie Lennox in campaigning spirit, urging other women to wake up: there’s so much to do;to Lucy Mangan’s anecdotal but cutting comment piece on why the feminist fight is not over yet. I agree with Annie that the word ‘feminism’ has become a parody of bra-burning, humourless zealots, and has lost its true meaning in terms of its strides towards equality between men and women – and have also reflected on what the ‘f’ word means today.

The initiatives: From Hillary Clinton launching her 100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women Girls through International Exchanges to a video from gender equality organisation Equals – featuring James Bond actor Daniel Craig in drag to make the point, delicately but firmly, with Judi Dench’s voiceover, that women and men are far from equal – I think it’s fantastic that women’s issues – the promotion and empowerment of women, and the celebration of female successes – are making the headlines.

It’s a pity this kind of support and attention is for one day in the year – and for the other 364 days it’s back to business and the stark reality. A poll by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Equals (which includes ActionAid, Amnesty International, the Fawcett Society and Women’s Aid) found that six in 10 of young women had experienced sexism in their daily lives – and nearly half (47%) believing they are not treated equally – while Office for National Statistics data analysed for the Guardian show that women earn less than men in 90% of job types.

However, for today, I wish women across the world ‘auguri’ for today’s Festa della Donna.



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