Don't Let International Women's Day Become Commodified

Chicago Peace Fellow

In considering how Global Girls might celebrate, acknowledge, support International Women’s Day 2021, I researched its genesis. While theories about the first commemoration differ, there is no disagreement on the socialist roots. Historian Temma Kaplan learned the first official National Woman’s Day was held in New York City on February 28, 1909.


“The organizers, members of the Socialist Party of America, wanted it to be on a Sunday so that working women could participate.” The idea of a “woman’s day” became popular in Europe and on March 19, 1911, the first International Woman’s Day was held, with worldwide rallies of more than 1 million people. It was celebrated primarily in socialist countries until the mid1970’s. In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly began celebrating March 8 as International Women’s Day. By 2014, it was celebrated in more than 100 countries, and had become an official holiday in over 25.

In 2021, International Women’s Day (IWD) runs the risk of becoming as commodified as Mother’s Day, Labor Day, and Christmas. -- Marvinetta Woodley-Penn

There were social media GIFs, gifts, memes, and a host of pink things masquerading as “celebrations”.


GG202103 No one in my neighborhood marched for the right to work, equal pay, access to proper healthcare, comprehensive sex education that honors girls’ anatomy or any number of inequities women and girls face. -- Marvinetta Woodley-Penn

On IWD, are we celebrating an idealized world where women are now on par with men, remembering how far women have come? Are we glossing over the individual and collective work that lies ahead?

For over 21 years, we’ve chosen to challenge ourselves and “make this land a better land” for everyone. We know that when women and girls are empowered, communities grow and prosper. Global Girls acknowledges girls and women every day by equipping girls with tools to use their voices for positive change, to grow into productive, conscious women and to deliberate issues that will influence their lives tomorrow. Using the performing arts as the vehicle to teach self-actualizing skills, we challenge girls to be their personal best. Yes, they will still live in a world that discriminates against women far too often, that stigmatizes and denigrates Black women, that imposes a “pink tax” on products for women and girls, but they will stand tall in spite of it all and lead the change they want to see.


On March 8th we discussed women who embody persistence, commitment, accountability and fearlessness. Women like Stacy Abrams, Serena Williams and the late Cicely Tyson provide a template that we all can follow. They believed they could make a difference by being the difference.

If women hold up half the sky, let’s all support, honor and work to keep them strong, nurtured, loved, supported so that they continue keeping that beautifully infinite power above us. Instead of sending a “Happy International Woman’s Day” card or social media message, I encouraged current and past “Globes” to support women-owned businesses, donate to women’s organizations or join a cause that advocates for women. And if those actions hold a whiff of socialism, I’m cool with that.

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