International women deserve more than Hallmark

There are 11 federal holidays, or days that all federal government workers enjoy as days off, presently in the United States. While in my experience most companies consider the number of holidays to be somewhat excessive, there are probably legitimate holidays that are not celebrated at all.

Indeed, some of the federal holidays seem to be of less importance than a number of international holidays that are celebrated nearly everywhere except the United States. One of these is International Women’s Day, which will be celebrated around the world tomorrow, March 8. The holiday is, at present, only considered to be an official holiday in 22 countries, but it is celebrated in some form in more than 40 nations worldwide. Much of the celebration is centered in the former Soviet bloc, in most of which International Women’s Day still merits a day off work. However, it is also an official holiday in such unexpected nations as Italy and Cameroon. In the U.S., on the other hand, the celebration is limited to a smattering of unofficial events.

This lack of recognition may initially appear odd for a day that got its start in the early 1900s in the United States. However, when one takes into account that it started as the result of a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the reason for the lack of information about this day in the U.S. becomes rather apparent. Indeed, the day took on a significant political meaning during its beginnings, and it was frequently marked by protests and demonstrations consisting of female factory workers. In the Soviet Union the day was a celebration of the promotion of women’s rights brought on by communism and the unusual uniformity of Soviet society.

Needless to say any day celebrated by the vile Soviets could not be recognized in the nation that spawned “true patriots” like Joe McCarthy, who insisted “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance just to make sure that Russkies were perplexed. Rather, the U.S. rallied around the American-as-apple-pie Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day for showing appreciation of the fairer gender.

But Valentine’s Day has become commercialized. When I saw my nine-year-old brother sitting at home making little postcards for every single one of his classmates and taping them on to special, pink, Valentine’s Day-only candies I could not help but wonder what exactly the meaning of the holiday was. Sure, the general expectation is that it is for lovers, but I would hope my little brother’s third-grade classroom is free of polyamory.

International Women’s Day is by no means free of commercial overtones, but it has retained a certain purity of purpose that differentiates it from the typical Hallmark Holiday. The day is highly inclusive, being a celebration of women of all ages, races and societal roles, and it is a valuable opportunity for people to show their appreciation of the diversity and contributions of the female gender to our world.

Meanwhile, the day has become dramatically less political in the years since its tumultuous beginnings, and no longer carries a clear correlation with socialism, as the women’s rights movement in the U.S. ensured equality without a socialist platform plank. At the same time, there are quite a few nations around the world that would benefit from International Women’s Day in its full political sense. Gender equality is far from common internationally, and celebrating this holiday could help move the process along in some nations.

So, gentlemen, pick up some flowers tomorrow and show the ladies in your life that you appreciate them. And ladies: Enjoy the holiday you didn’t know you had.