March 8, International Women’s Day

More than a 100 years ago, over a million people took to the streets in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark to celebrate the first International Women’s Day in Europe and to demonstrate for women’s rights at the same time.

Today, this holiday is almost forgotten in Austria. The same is the case with many other countries including the USA, the country where the movement that lead to the creation of International Women’s Day originally started.

Not so in China. In celebration of International Women’s Day, all females in my company get the morning off on March 8. I decide to get a late breakfast at my favourite congee place. Today is one of the rare events where I have time to sit down for breakfast. The woman selling the congee starts to chat with me.

She: “You’re here with your bicycle.”
I: “Yes, the weather is really nice, so I decided to take the bike.”
She: “Did you get the day off today?”
I: “We got the morning off.”
She: ” Today is International Women’s Day, I should also take the day off.” She looks at her husband for approval and then goes on: “Many companies here in China give their female workers the day off on March 8. Would you also get the day off in Austria?”
I: “Unfortunately not, we don’t really celebrate International Women’s Day there.”

She then changes the topic and asks me about housing prices and the social security system in Austria. When I finish with my congee, I leave for the supermarket to buy some fresh vegetables and cook a home-made meal, which I don’t get to do that often lately.

In the afternoon, I get to work. Since I have to work only four hours today, time flies by really fast. My male co-workers were all busy coming up with ideas for presents they could give the female co-workers the last few days. Before I get off work today, I’m presented with the outcome of it: A notebook, a small wallet and condoms.

Although probably meant to be funny, I thought that condoms were a great idea for women’s day, kind of like celebrating women’s independence from merely being a housewife and mother and propagating safer sex at the same time.

Happy belated International Women’s Day!

For another article on International Women’s Day (written by Jocelyn Eikenburg from Speaking of China), click here: http://www.speakingofchina.com/china-articles/china-intl-womens-day/.

Do you celebrate International Women’s Day in your home country or have you ever celebrated it abroad? I’d love to read your comments.

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4 thoughts on “March 8, International Women’s Day

  1. Rather than condoms, I’d show studies demonstrating that equality of women in top leadership is good for everyone. We’re at a stage in Feminism now where major gains in high leadership positions need to happen and the opportunity gap between rich womyn and poor womyn needs to be closed. It’s still very rare to find equality for womyn on the boards of top financial companies. This is a social loss too because firms with womyn involved at the supervisory and executive level perform better long-term than those that do not. Womyn bring different skills sets than men. They ask different sorts of questions. They often do better with long-term planning. They are uniquely different stakeholders. In a highly competitive world, countries that do not embrace the leadership of 50% of their population will be at a significant disadvantage by both quantitative and qualitative reckoning.

    We also need to be helping womyn move into previously “male” jobs (and men into “female” jobs). My sister, for example, studies Mechanical Engineering. Despite her school’s best attempts, the top Engineering programs cannot attract enough women. Pay differentials will never even out if womyn aren’t studying the most professions jobs, like Electronic Engineering, Finance, ect.

    Finally, I think womyn and men would benefit if we pushed for a more comprehensive understanding of fatherhood. In both the EU and North America, men who become fathers are obligated to provide for the financial well-being of their children. They aren’t, however, obligated to actually be fathers, to co-equally raise their children. In many professions, and old mentality that sees the father as the income earner only persists. Men can’t get time off for paternity leave. They can’t be equal parents. If that doesn’t change, it will be impossible for womyn to ever strike a work-life balance. Womyn will continue to be asked to sacrifice their careers for their families or their families for their careers. Men will continue to be the less involved parent. That’s not the sort of society I’d want to live in, and I don’t think it reflects most people’s values.

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    • Thanks for pointing out all these issues.

      You’re right, it should be more balanced. I’m definitely a big advocate of paternity leave and think that it’s also very important for the guy to have a lot of time to be a father. It’s a pity that often even people who’d like to take paternity leave will decide against it because of money reasons or the like. You can take paternity leave in Austria, but if the guy is the one with the higher salary, the couple will often decide against it. This is quite a pity, even more so for the child.

      There’s neither paternity nor maternity leave in China, but I hope things will change with time. In China, it’s often the grandparents who take care of the kid while the parents are working. What that does to your kid is another problem that will be even more serious once these kids have grown up.

      I’m not sure about the ratio of women in top-leadership positions here in China, but one thing I’m sure of is that they are underrepresented by large in the National People’s Congress.

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