MANHATTAN, Kan. - On Monday, March 8th President and Michelle Obama celebrated International Women's Day. They were joined by Madeline Albright (the first female US Secretary of State) to mark the progress women have made in the United States and to draw attention to the problems women still face all over the world. Madeline Albright pointed out many struggles women all over the world face and said that while some may claim these are cultural differences and should be left alone, she believes "it is criminal and we each have an obligation to stop it." Michelle Obama pointed out many accomplishments women have made. She also made it clear that this day was not just to honor the famous women who have made history, but the "quiet heroes;" the first women in board rooms, on playing fields and battle fields.
While many accomplishments of women were mentioned and celebrated, President Obama made sure that the reality of the present is still marked by inequality, unfairness and hardship for women. As a Women's Studies student, I often hear people question what the study is all about. I hear people say women have already achieved equality because of voting rights and the right to property, etc. It is great to hear it acknowledged that although women have made great strides in the world, it is still not a gender fair place. President Obama drew attention to many "statistics of inequality" such as the fact that women earn only 77% of what men earn, that 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic violence and that women make up half of the US population but only make up 17% of the seats in congress.
I am unsure if it is due to my own ignorance, or the lack of recognition this important day gets, but until Monday I was unaware of International Women's Day. Here is a little bit of history about the day. In 1910 at the International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen, the idea for an International Women's Day was tabled by Clara Zetkin. The idea was proposed that one day, every year, in every country, there should be a celebration of women - a women's day - to celebrate solidarity in the fight for equal economical and political rights with men. In 1911 the first International Women's Day was celebrated and it was a huge success. Meetings all over the United States and around the world were organized. Men were asked to stay home with the children for once, "while the captive housewives went to the meetings."
In 1975 International Women's Day was given official recognition by the United Nations and the celebratory day was taken up by many governments. In Russia, on March 8th of every year, it is now traditional for men to get up early and buy flowers for the women in their lives, wives, daughters, mothers, grandmothers are all celebrated for that special day. I personally believe that this day is not given enough attention. I hope that International Women's Day can become a HUGE deal in communities all over Kansas. Let's try to remember how women got to where we are and how much left there is still to accomplish!