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It’s International Women’s Day But Where Are the Feminists?

It's time to recognize that the struggles of one woman are the struggles of all women

Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, a global celebration intended to honor women’s rights and advocate for gender equality. It serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggles women face worldwide. This day provides a platform to amplify the voices of the feminist movement, shed light on gender equality issues, recognize women’s achievements in various fields, and address the pervasive issues of violence and abuse against women.

The origins of International Women’s Day trace back to 1909 when the Socialist Party of America established National Women’s Day in New York on Feb. 28, following demonstrations by garment workers. The following year, at the second International Congress of Working Women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, a prominent advocate for women’s rights, proposed an international women’s day to advocate for equal rights. The first official celebration of International Women’s Day took place in March 1911, and the date was later set as March 8 in 1913.

The United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day in 1975 and declared March 8 as the official day to celebrate women’s rights and promote global harmony.

Yet, amidst these celebrations, there’s a poignant irony. Despite being initially established in the Western world to honor and celebrate women, International Women’s Day often falls short of its intended purpose. It raises questions about the myth of Western and “white feminism”– a term that refers to a type of feminism that focuses exclusively on white, upper-class women and prioritizes the issues that exclusively affect them– prompting broader reflections on feminism as a whole.

As we reflect on the significance of this day, it becomes challenging to partake in celebrations. Instead, we’re compelled to confront the harsh realities that many women face globally. For instance, on this March 8, according to reports from the Gaza health ministry and the government media office, nearly 9,000 women have lost their lives in Israeli attacks over the past five months. An additional 2,100 are missing and presumed dead, while 23,000 have been wounded, and over half a million are displaced. Shockingly, 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza are suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and inadequate medical care.

Just recently, a Twitter user shared a heartbreaking account of her cousin experiencing her first period while forcibly displaced in a tent in Southern Gaza. Despite the turmoil and blockade of aid supplies, her mother searched desperately for sanitary pads and painkillers. The plea from this Twitter user resonates deeply: “For International Women’s Day, call out feminists who are silent on Palestine.” 

Similar calls echo in regions like Sudan, where women are joining training camps to defend themselves against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Gender-based violence has reached epidemic proportions in Sudan, with over four million women and girls at risk of sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Amidst such dire circumstances, where is the outcry from the self-proclaimed feminists of the world? Where is the solidarity when Palestinian women endure one of the worst humanitarian crises? These questions lead us to ponder the essence of feminism and its core principles of inclusivity and intersectionality. Feminism cannot be selective— it must encompass the struggles of all women, regardless of their location or background.

Earlier this year in January, we witnessed firsthand how Western feminists seemed more preoccupied with the Oscar snub of the Barbie film than with the genuine plight of women in Gaza, Sudan, and around the world. Movie enthusiasts from the UK and US flooded X, formerly known as Twitter, venting their frustration over the exclusion of Barbie director Greta Gerwig and actress Margot Robbie from the list of nominees for the upcoming Academy Awards. They asserted that this omission was a manifestation of sexism in Hollywood and thus a significant feminist issue (Despite Lily Gladstone becoming the first Native American to receive an Oscar nomination for best actress). 

“Western white liberal feminism is expending energy on the absence of Oscar nominations for ‘Barbie’ rather than directing any concern towards the atrocities faced by women in Gaza. It underscores the skewed priorities of some individuals,” remarked @Puffindor, a pro-Palestine X user and attorney.

To compound matters, former US Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the supposed”’controversy,” expressing her disdain on X. Is this truly what feminism means? Absolutely not. 

In response to the disturbing reality of selective outrage within white feminism, consider this poignant reminder from the Feminists In Kenya (FIK) movement, challenging the inherently skewed ideologies of Western feminism. They emphasize that “a true feminist foreign policy is inherently anti-imperialist and prioritizes demilitarization and de-escalation of war.”

The statement from FIK reaffirms the importance of global feminist solidarity and illustrates how such movements naturally align with shared principles, without needing deliberate coordination. It begins with a powerful declaration: “Grounded in transnational feminist solidarity and guided by our feminist responsibility to name and confront oppression wherever and whenever it occurs, we, the Feminists In Kenya (FIK), stand in unwavering support and solidarity with the people of Palestine.” This, indeed, embodies the essence of feminism.

These sobering realities compel us to reevaluate the essence of feminism and its commitment to amplifying the voices of all women. It’s not enough to be selective or complacent; true feminism demands unwavering solidarity and action in the face of injustice. As we commemorate International Women’s Day, let us pledge to stand united in the fight for gender equality, recognizing that the struggles of one woman are the struggles of all women.

Head Image: Middle East Archive 

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