It is quite common to get confused by the words celebration and commemoration. Today most of the people have made that mistake. Women all around the world receive flowers and greetings for being a woman but, have you ever wondered why do we “celebrate”? Are we actually celebrating something?
Through the years we have built the idea of women’s celebration above the historical facts that lead us to this day: the death of 146 working women, as a result of a fire in Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory. This fact struck the world. In their memory we have the International Women’s day on March 8 instead the date on which in 1911 the first International Women’s Day had taken place, March 19, that was actually the main date to celebrate (yes, in that case, the purpose was to celebrate and notice the working women from the whole world). This is why March 8 is a remembrance day.
Instead of a celebration, March 8 is the women’s opportunity to attract the world’s attention so that everyone can see their current conditions. It’s been 110 years of the first initiative for the International Women’s day and things did not have a real impact or change in our society. We still have domestic violence, wage inequality and a lot of abuses. This day is a reminder of the fact that women still have to struggle to have their own spaces in economic, social, political and cultural issues.
So, this day is not about just being a woman, it’s about all the fights that women had to do and endure during decades to gain their rights. Nowadays, in many countries, women can work, women can study, women can vote, women can decide about their own lives, whom they want to marry to, if they want to have children and a family or if they decide to remain by themselves. The previous rights exist thanks to those years of social struggle but it’s not a won battle, not yet since there is still so much to fight for.
To legalize abortion is one of the main struggle that women are fighting for, mostly in Latin-American countries; they also have to counteract the sexual harassment in all social spheres: family, school, work, and public spaces; and of course, they have to fight with the sexual abuses and femicides all around the world. The international agenda has already started to pay attention to all these matters.
Therefore, this day it is more than just a compliment, it’s about fighting against prejudices and mistreatment that women suffer and endure every day. It is the day where women are able to show the world their conditions and how they are still discriminated for their gender.
Consequently, women from Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Argentine, Colombia, Spain, Chile, England, Italy, France, and many other countries will take the streets not to have a big party but to claim for their rights.
On the past International Women’s Day, we went to the streets of Porto, Portugal, to talk to both men and women, from various nationalities, manifesting for gender equality.
Could you tell more about your work as a member of the feminist organization?
Catherine: “I’m a French teacher in the south of France. I am also a feminist teacher and I think is important to think about the problems facing women in schools but also in society. Usually, every year I take part in the 8 of March in France. Since we are lucky of being on holidays right now, we are here in the square in Porto. It is very interesting for me to see how the feminist fight is in other countries.”
What do you think of spending this 8 of March in Porto? Is it very different from Germany?
Flo: “Good question, I don’t know, I think it’s an amazing thing that so many people are on the streets. For sure there is a lot of women, but also a lot of men. Is nice to fight for the rights.”
Niels: “And it doesn’t matter where you come from, or where you live. It matters that you fight for the rights of woman and humanity. It makes no difference.”
Loriene (Austria), Hannah (Germany) and Manu (Basque Country)
What do you think is the biggest difference between your countries, during these walks, and here?
Loriene: “In Viena, we have a lot of political changes right now, so usually the demonstrations are much bigger, there is something like 20 thousand, 30 thousand people; and a huge amount of police because politics are going kind of right (winged) radical. But I think it’s pretty much the same vibe and it’s really nice, so I enjoy it.
We have a little bit of a better organization, I have to say. There are more speeches and more talks with people and organizations. Also, within the demonstration, we have a stronger program. But the vibe is the same and I really enjoy it.”
Hannah: “I think making things public and being noisy, going on the street, is an (international) feminism, and it should be like this. So is not comparative, it’s the same and it should be the same. There is no difference.”
Manu: “I think a man in this kind of fight has to go further and think about how to help women to fight on this day and all days in the year. Maybe the difference is that in the Basque Country we are doing it all together, and thinking all together, men and feminism. I think that here there still a ways to go, but this is a start and is super cool to see people here.”
Anaise and Archibald (both from France)
In France, do you participate in any kind of feminist collectives or organization?
Anaise: “No, it’s my first time, but I want to make (part of) others in France. ”
And you, do you usually participate in walks like this?
Archibald: “It is my first time too. I wanted to be here because men can also strike for women, and participate (in the fight) for women rights. We are the same, there is no difference.”
Lina and Irene (both from Vienna)
Do you make part of any collectives?
Lina: “Yes, but not right now that I could name, but sometimes, yes. We are definitely politically organized people.”
Do you see a lot of difference from the 8 of march here?
Lina: “I don’t know, because I haven’t seen so much of this march yet. I’d say one difference is that, in Vienna, it was very common until very recently, that it was a female-only march, there were no heterosexual guys at the marches. This changed recently. were an only female march. No heterosexual men and this changed recently.
When you arrived, we were just talking about how it reminds us of last year, when there was the first open for all genders, and also men, march. this remembered last year, when it was open for all genders. It was strange and stills kinda of strange to have a lot of man in the march. But otherwise, I could not say any difference at the moment. Maybe it’s also more international, but I don’t know.”
Irene: “I did not see, until now, what the topics are. I just saw something about “feminicídios”, women killed? And this “mamas livres” (free breasts) thing? So, some different topics.”
Lina: “No, that’s true, the march in Vienna often was organized in a kind of blocks, so for example, a block of sex workers or a block of internationalist feminists or a block of queer feminist. Here is more like everybody together.”
Paula: “We are Erasmus in Porto, and since it is an International Day, it seemed to be a day to go to the streets, doesn’t matter where you are.”
Yolanda: “We decided to do our posters in Spanish for people to be able to see the international feature of the strike.”
Do you make part of any collectives?
Paula: “No, we just came to the streets, like our mothers and our grandmothers in our cities. And there, even in my home city, which is a small one – not like Madrid, the capital – was full of people. Let’s see if here we’ll get surprised by people deciding to go to the streets as well, to defend their rights.”
Yolanda: “Yes, because as of now, I believe there aren’t many people here yet. At least not like it would be in a Spanish city.”
Paula: “The square is getting more crowded, but in Spain, we really occupy the streets.”
Do you usually come to this kind of events in the 8 of March?
Eiron: “Yes. Actually, I think is the way to spend the 8 March. For the moment, we are still in the phase where that’s how we should spend the 8 of March. So it becomes more common sense and then we won’t have to do this anymore. But for the moment, we have to do this.”
Comparing your country and Porto what do you see of different?
Eiron: “It’s pretty much the same, actually, in the sense that we are trying to promote the same values of feminity. We are women so we want to do whatever it is we want personally, not to stick to some sort of agenda that we were given. The 8 of March is celebrated the same way in Kosovo as well, which means that we are still in the same position as you.”
Do you think there are more people joining the movement?
Eiron: “More people and more men, with every year. Which is what is needed, actually. The power needs to come from both sides, right?”
Comparing to France, do you think there are more people joining these walks?
Lorraine: “I don’t really know in terms of numbers of people in the end. I think is universal, the different issues are pretty much the same everywhere.”
Why did students decide to join this strike?
Sandra: “Students joined this because we see, every day, in our schools and in our classrooms, different reasons to join it. We believe that our books and student guides are full of sexist theories and they don’t carry any feminist perspective.
Most of our student community is full of women and when we see the management of schools and universities in Portugal, you only see men in those places.
Apart from that, I believe students should strike because of some academic traditions, as one called Praxe, that carries some stereotypes and violence against woman.”
Rita and Diana (Portugal), members of the Humanities Faculty Collective (Coletivo de Letras)
What do you think are the problems related to college?
Rita: “Now we have a lot of women studying in colleges and we don’t see people embracing feminist themes in college. We are studying more each day, and when we enter the labor market we get paid less, even though we went to college and we study more than our mother and grandmothers used to do.”
Do you think the march is having the adhesion that the students were waiting for?
Jade: “Yes, I’m surprised. It is very different from what I’m used to in Brazil because we have a lot more activist conscience. But it’s always good to start. The start here in Porto has been a bit complicated, we always think we will have much less support. However, this year, it’s been surprising. People are more organized and are wanting to talk more. The public audience is more receptive to ideas.”
Sofia: “I think Portugal is progressing. I’m surprised because I did not imagine Portugal having so much focus on political and social issues. “