10 Insanely Easy Ways to Celebrate International Women's Day
International Women's Day is coming up on March 8, and I wish the United States made a bigger deal about it. (As Rene Lynch noted a couple years ago in the L.A. Times: "World Celebrates; We Get Google Doodle." Fortunately, working for SheKnows Media makes one a pro at celebrating women in a hurry. Here's a list so that no matter how busy you are, you can make sure March 8, 2015 does not go unmarked.
1. Give yourself at least part of the day off.
I'm serious. You are a woman and you probably work too hard and if you don't then your friends likely do, and if you're like me you often work on Sundays, too. So invite your favorite overworked woman or three to come over and just spend some time validating each other. I'm doing it, even though I have Women's Day-related deadline obligations to take care of.
What you make of your "day off" is up to you. If I want to interpret "women's day" as all moi and treat myself to a spa day—that's entirely valid; it's my day, too. (Er, excuse me while I make an online appointment real quick.) And if I want to interpret "international" as French and make everyone wear striped shirts and talk like Pepe Le Pew, I will do so, and you will come weez me to zee Casbah, and we will make beautiful music togezair.
2. Make dinner plans.
Cook recipes by women bloggers and/or patronize restaurants with woman chefs and owners. If you're wondering whether it still matters, note that professional opportunities for women in food are opening up, but women are still very underrepresented at the top of the profession. Women occupy a mere 6.3 percent (10 out of 160) of the head chef positions at the 15 leading U.S. restaurant groups, according to a Bloomberg study last year.
Read this awesome story about women chefs supporting each other. And enjoy your dinner! (I think I'll go to Kin Khao, owned by Pim Techamuanvivit—a food blogger!—this year.)
3. Read some awesome writing by women.
Recently, I've been very occupied by the Across Women's Lives series we're working to share and amplify in partnership with Public Radio International—it's an excellent exploration of issues women face around the world and closer to home.
I mostly read fiction, and just finished the engrossing Disgruntled by Asali Solomon, and (OMG finally) Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri—a modern epic. In my Kindle, I have The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. But I think it's time for me to sit down with The Secret Place by Tana French, one of my favorite writers. She's Irish, and writes emotionally complex novels about the (made-up) Dublin Murder Squad. They're sometimes supernatural, and always haunting.
4. Add your voice.
The official theme is #MakeItHappen. The U.N.'s theme this year is "Empowering Women—Empowering Humanity: Picture It!." Whether you're marching in New York or taking the day easy, share what you're doing. Write a post, share a photo on Instagram, post in social media, make a video. Your voice matters. If you need help with ideas, check out our writing prompts.
5. Fist pump.
We have a long way to go, for sure (especially in light of the fact that no country has reached gender equality yet). But we need to celebrate our victories. Over the past year, we saw over 100 women in Congress for the very first time. We saw feminism at the forefront of social media discussions, from #YesAllWomen and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen to YouOKSis to the HeForShe movement (with Emma Watson as its influential spokesperson). Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize.
And we're part of the solution. Watch BlogHer Co-founder Elisa Camahort Page's amazing TedX talk on how women bloggers are rewriting history:
6. Geek out.
The Ada Initiative wants to "get women more involved in open technology and culture in ways that shape the technology and culture—project leaders, speakers, architects, editors, developers, and writers. One of the benefits of women's participation is in creating or influencing projects to meet women's needs and desires. This can only be done if women are in leadership or design roles." Yes. Maybe it's time to make a pledge to learn to code?
7. Click and give.
To whatever organization you like. I like The Afghan Women's Writing Project, Name It Change It, Violence UnSilenced, The Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media, Black Girls Rock, and pretty much everything listed at Half the Sky—but that's me. How about you?
8. Have a party.
I'm serious. Let's have a party. According to the official IWD site, this day is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In China, Madagascar, and Nepal, it's a holiday for women only.
According to IWD, "the tradition sees men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries, IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers."
9. Fine. You live outside the Bay Area and can't party with me. Boo. Stay in and watch a movie made by women, then.
Yes, it still matters! We've seen much conversation—and some progress—for women in the entertainment industry this past year. Selma was the first movie directed by a black woman to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and the first black woman director to receive a Golden Globe. And hey: Female-led films make more money.
While those are encouraging stories, lead actresses still get less screen time than lead actors. The Oscars were exceptionally white and male this year, and DuVurnay's omission continued a troubling pattern of overlooking female directors. The annual Celluloid Ceiling report for the past year shows that representation of women in the television industry has gone down 1% in the last year, and flat in the film industry. Only 12% of protagonists in movies are women.
This is an especially perfect weekend to watch Selma, by the way, because March 8 is also the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, where law enforcement officers violently beat and tear gassed peaceful marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. As President Obama said this weekend,
"Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed," he said. "Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence ... stands weakened.""
What's your favorite woman-directed film? Can you name one from the past year besides Selma? (Full confession: I could not, off the top of my head. I am great about reading books by women and suck at films by women. How about you?)
10. And after you're done celebrating, plan to step up for a better tomorrow.
For inspiration, check out the Obamas' new initiative, Let Girls Learn and the Hatch conversations with teens and tweens to start thinking about the next generation. Enlist your male allies with Lean In Together and He For She. And look out to the entire world with the Beijing+20 Initiative.
Are you writing, tweeting, donating to women's causes on March 8? Why or why not, and which ones? I want to know!
Note: I originally wrote this post in 2012, but have been thoroughly updating it each year since. Because we should celebrate EVERY year. Happy International Women's Day!—Julie