Written for Total Women’s Cycling – March, 2018
International Women’s Day and the Women’s Rights Movement
We take a look at the women’s rights movement over the years
As International Women’s Day swiftly approaches, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and consider the importance of the women’s rights movement, how far its come, how it’s impacted on sports and how you can contribute to the campaign’s momentum.
Contrary to popular belief, this annual day of celebration isn’t about how great and awesome women are, it’s not a big trumpet blowing extravaganza where we put down men to elevate the female race. International Women’s Day is a celebration of the women’s rights movement, the achievement of women and their influence to bring about social, economic, political and cultural changes that promote a more gender equal society.
What is IWD and where did it originate from?
International Women’s Day has been recognised since the early 1900’s. Originally a movement from the US, IWD is now a globally celebrated event involving nations from all over the world who rally together, host events, fundraisers and most of all, awareness for women’s rights.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” – Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist
The colour purple has become a tradition associated IWD, along with green and white which began with the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK in 1908. Since then, even the colours of feminism have changed with the advancement of the movement. Purple represents justice and dignity, green for hope and white for purity, however white is no longer used as much given the many different interpretations of the term “purity”. The second wave of feminism saw the introduction of the colour yellow, signifying “new dawn” which is now recognised as progressive contemporary feminism.
A Brief History of IWD
The early 1900’s: The oppression of women and striking differences in gender equality spurred on 15,000 women to march the streets of New York demanding improved working conditions and increased pay.
1910: Clara Zetkin proposed the idea of a global International Women’s Day at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. From here, IWD was born.
1911: The first IWD was celebrated in Europe which saw over a million women and men attending rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.
1913 – 1917: Men and women continued to rally throughout WW1. During this time, March 8th became the fixed date for IWD that we know it as today.
1975: The United Nations celebrates IWD for the first time
1996: The United Nations commences annual themes for IWD. Themes have included; Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future – Women at the Peace table – Women and Human Rights – World Free of Violence Against Women – Empower Rural Women, End Poverty & Hunger – A Promise is a Promise; Time for Action to End Violence Against Women.
2001: The official International Women’s Day website launched to act as a hub for events, discussion, promoting awareness and to keep the flame burning for women’s rights.
And now… the women’s rights movement has continued to grow year-on-year. Increasing awareness for gender equality and celebrating the achievements of women has given many a voice to come forward and contribute to the cause.
Press For Progress
This year’s theme for IWD is #PressForProgress.
Over the last year, there have been a number of significant events that have come to the surface. Most notably, the Global Gender Pay Gap Report which announced the unsettling reality that gender pay parity is still 200 years away. This catalysed motivation for a number of women’s rights organisations to encourage women to be more proactive with their support.
Last year we saw the emergence of a powerful social media hashtag, #MeToo, which created a new platform for women to voice to share their experiences with sexual harassment, assault and feelings towards the damning allegations against Hollywood Tycoon, Harvey Weinstein and a number of other Hollywood big-wigs.
#PressForProgress cements the drive to achieve gender parity, equal rights and fair treatment for all genders.
IWD Isn’t Just for Women
Contrary to popular belief, International Women’s Day isn’t just about women “making a noise for equality” but there is a huge number of men who support the cause too.
From the outset, men have marched the streets, worn heeled shoes, hijabs and dresses alongside women to demonstrate their support for progressive action by proudly redefining the traditional concept of masculinity.
Outspoken male feminists include Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and father of two daughters, who said, “It’s unacceptable that your gender can still determine your opportunities in life, how much you get paid and your career prospects.”
“Equal rights is not just a fight for women – all of us need to stand in solidarity with our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends to say that discrimination, in all shapes and forms, will not be tolerated” – Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Simon Ragoonanan is a UK based stay at home dad who humorously blogs about raising his daughter and fighting against the pink gender stereotype on his website Man Vs. Pink.
While the history books, legislation and social structure has been in many ways influenced by men over the decades, we must remember to not judge all men by the actions of their predecessors and instead, welcome them to celebrate and motivate the women’s rights movement.
Women in Sports
When it comes to the field of sports, women used to be considered delicate and far too fragile to participate in such physical activities – but boy oh boy, have we showed them!
TWC and our sister mag, Cooler, celebrate women’s achievements in sports and adventure. We’re proud to call ourselves women who source and create content, well, for women with the aim to motivate and encourage women to find their adventure… wherever that may be. So to celebrate IWD 2018, here are some incredible feats in sport conquered by women;
1926: Gertrude Ederle: Gertrude became the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926. Afterwards stating, “I knew it could be done, it had to be done, and I did it.”
1948: Alice Coachman: Alice Coachman becomes the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal after being refused the rights to proper training equipment and having to train barefoot.
1967: Kathrine Switzer is the first woman to run the Boston Marathon against the wishes of the event organisers.
1996: Elissa Steamer: Elissa became the world’s first professional female skateboarder.
2016: Rachel Atherton: Rachel Atherton becomes the first downhill mountain bike athlete to have a “perfect season” winning every World and National event in 2016. She went on to be awarded the coveted Laureus World Action Sportsperson Award and BT Sports Action Woman of the Year.
While these truly incredible athletes have shown the world that women are more than capable of achieving great things in sports, we shouldn’t forget the women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring around change from the inside.
There are many more women working in the cycling industry now than ever before. Promoting the sport, working on women’s specific bikes and kit whilst influencing the beliefs and actions of others through their respective brands.
While there’s still some way to go for prize money parity in sports, there have been a number of significant steps forward seen in recent years; Tour Down Under – UCI World Champs – British Cycling Nationals. However, adequate media coverage of women’s races is still very much lacking.
How you can help
If you’re feeling inspired to get involved with the women’s rights movement, there are so many ways to get started. You can do as much or as little as you want to, with showing your support is the first step.
The International Women’s Day website has plenty of material to reference, ways you can help and even give you some inspiration to host events of your own. For more information, head over to their site here.