The women who made 8th of March International Women’s Day

08/03/2015

Today is International Women’s day, actually it’s International Working Women’s day; so many women will be on the streets, the media will talk about women only and just for a day we will remember all those rights patriarchy took away from women, and then continue with our regular lives the day after. Special days and dates are just for this, aren’t they?

Would you like to learn how 8th of March became International Women’s Day? Women’s rights history is such a long one and it’s one which is full of fights, so it’s impossible to sum it in an article. Even if I was to right volumes of books, a part of it would always be missing. We’re talking about a system which refused to believe that matriarchal societies existed in history, up until 18th century evidence was found. A system which was based on ignoring women. So the struggle behind 8th of March becoming International Women’s Day is a long one.

Everything begins with the fight that was given against the irreplaceable product of patriarchy: capitalism. As discrimination between men and women exists everywhere, including the cruel discrimination amongst the working class. Women’s workforce is seen as cheap labor and easy to abuse. On March 8, 1957 women workers in the textile industry who were forced to work 16 hours a day went into a strike in New York. Their strike has gained so much attention that other workers in the textile and tobacco industry went into strikes as well. Just like women giving birth to life, the women resistance in New York gave birth to a bigger resistance of other workers. This is just the beginning of the fight in the States.

Meanwhile in Europe, it would be impossible not to mention an awesome woman like Clara Zetkin. On 1874 she started to unite the women’s rights movement with the workers’ resistance in Germany. On 1879 with the state banning socialist propaganda she went into exile in Paris, and she continued her work on uniting women’s resistance and workers’ resistance there. In 1889 on the founding day of Second International (an organization of social and labor parties) she presented a speech on the difference between proletarian women’s resistance and middle-class women’s resistance. She underlined the fact that middle-class women’s resistance will not free all women, that the resistance of proletarian women would bring a broader freedom for all women. Considering that it was an era when men who did not have private property just gained the right to vote, her point of view is quite realistic.

As the States side of the fight grew bigger, on 1908 over 15,000 worker and immigrant women, marched for less working hours, better payment and the right to vote. The Socialist Party which supported the growing women’s rights movement, declared 28th of February National Women’s Day on 1909. As the worker women’s movement kept growing bigger, mostly young and immigrant women from the working class went into a big strike called “Uprising of 20,000” for over 3 months. Yet all of this resistance caused no change in the law, up until the big fire in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on 25 March 1911. Mostly young and immigrant women between the ages of 16-23 were locked inside the factory in order to prevent theft. 123 women and 23 men died that day by burning, by suffocating or by jumping off the windows trying to save their lives. After this massacre, on April 5th 1911, over 80,000 people marched for fair working rights.

Meanwhile in Europe, in 1910, Clara Zetkin called for an official day in order to “specify and discuss women’s issues” on the Second International Women Conference and her suggestion was accepted. The day was accepted as 19th of March and with the declaration of this day, many women started rebelling in different countries across Europe. Yet unfortunately no union was made upon one specific date.

And here we come to today. The day that made 8th of March International Women’s day. On 1917, according to the Julian calendar a day in February but according to the Gregorian calendar on 8th of March, women in Russian Empire started a resistance called “bread and peace.” This resistance that they started in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) is seen as the beginning of the famous February Revolution in Russian Empire. After this resistance, Russian Empire has collapsed and women gained the right to vote. In order to honor the women of Russia who started a revolution, the socialist platforms decided to declare 8th of March as International Women’s Day. UN’s acceptance and declaration of this day could only happen later in 1975.

So what’s the perception in Turkey of this day which was gained by such effort and struggle? There are discounts on laser epilation for Women’s Day. Long live the women who choose to give up on all of their body hair in order to look prettier to their men! There are shopping campaigns where you get a pearl necklace as a free gift for Women’s Day. Long live the women who put up with the pressure they face at home, who overlook their husbands’ infidelity and get happy with pearl necklaces! There are discounts on irons, frying pans and vacuum cleaners today. Long live the women who are not seen as anything but house workers! There are discounts on flower shops today, for those who say “every woman is a flower.” There’s a great answer from KEIG (Women’s Work and Employment Initiative) for this saying: “woman is woman and flower is your old man!”

Excuse me but 8th of March, a day won by worker women’s hard struggle, by women losing their lives, by women going into strike and losing their paycheck, by forming organizations and giving conferences, does not mean a day for beauty industry’s discount campaigns and definitely does not mean flowers! This day is for you to become aware of what these women and many more did for the rights women have right now. This day is for you to see all the other rights patriarchy took from women, still did not give back and will definitely refuse to give back unless women resist and unite. 8th of March is not for sacred mothers, obedient women and well-mannered girls, it’s to demolish these stereotypes! This day is for you to listen to the calls and demands of the women who are out on the streets today! Isn’t it time that you treat 8th of March, the way it’s supposed to be treated?

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