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The Dilution of International Women’s Day: Marketisation and Erasure



The past week, in extension of the widely observed International Women’s Day (IWD), I’ve been celebrating International Working Women’s Week. There are two distinctions to be made between the popularised (and in many cases marketised) state of the former, and the political nature of the latter: the first is that a day is definitely not sufficient to honour the plurality of women’s experiences around the world, and the second being that the origin of international women’s day was the fight of socialist women, who believed in universal female suffrage, the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of socialism. [1] So, let’s delve into what International Women’s Day was, what it is now, and why it’s important to recognise the erasure of its origins.


The origins of International Women’s Day

IWD started at the International Conference of Socialist Women in 1911, when women came together and decided to create a Women’s Day. Women workers in Germany, the US, Switzerland, Denmark, and Austria were the first adopt the day, and others in France, Holland, Sweden, Bohemia and Russia soon followed suit. [2] As well as the key demand for universal suffrage, the marches and activism around this day called for things like better labour laws for women workers; equality for single mothers; and more provision for mothers and children, including nurseries, and free meals in schools – many of which feminist activists are still fighting for today. Before intersectionality was a buzzword, socialist women recognised the different needs of middle and working class women, and of women doing waged work, and those doing domestic work.


International Women’s Day Nowadays

These days, however, IWD has been diluted from its former opposition to oppression, into an opportunity for multinational corporations to don the guise of feminism, whilst hiding their exploitation of women workers, often, across the Global South. Women staring dramatically down the lens of the camera, or playing sports in slow motion is such a clichéd concept for IWD videos, and ‘feminist’ t-shirts have become an insta fave without due scrutiny of whether or not the manufacturing process is ethical. The hypocrisy of the co-option and marketisation of feminist activism as a publicity stunt for capital gain is beyond transparent. Plus, the performative nature of these ‘feminist’ exploits can be more damaging than helpful to the feminist movement.


The Future of International Women’s Day

So, what can we do?

To build the best, and most inclusive movement possible – one that is truly built on international solidarity – we must continue to critique our words, our actions and our movement. Feminism isn’t, and has never been perfect – it’s up to us to deconstruct power structures, to honour hidden histories, and to build a more equal future.




[1] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/international-womens-day-clara-zetkin-working-class-socialist

[2] Ibid.


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