March 8, 2013 marked the 105th year anniversary of International Women’s Day. Women’s Day is by far my favorite day of the year that doesn’t involve presents. Since it’s inception in 1908 right here in New York City, Women’s Day has come to represent the celebration of women’s achievements and goals through fantastic events. Our mission for this day is to ensure a future for girls everywhere that is “bright, equal, safe and rewarding” (IWD official site).
Ideally, we would do this every day, but at the very least we have this one fantastic day a year where the world has to sit up and take notice! Fantastic, right? In Australia, this day has only become more and more important, and more celebrated. People wear pins, make lunches and attend events at school, work and home. People donate to, and spotlight, their favorite women’s organizations and charities. Some of us even take the time to reach out to the influential women in our own lives and thank them for leading the way. So this year, I waited impatiently as all the usual social media outlets began to promote Women’s Day (and all the regular media ignored it) and I went on the official website to see what events were in my area. This was my first big shock. I now live in New York City, one of the greatest cities in the world and the birthplace of Women’s Day. Yet I could count on one hand the number of events being held. Unfazed, I decided to plan my own event at the nonprofit where I work. As a huge and influential women’s organization with international reach, I felt confident that I could, even with short notice, plan a fantastic event. Without completely throwing my organization under the bus, let me just say it was quite a battle to get this thing going. Those who live locally will know the weather was terrible and the media was hyping up a storm (which I now realize just means it will snow – New Yorkers despise snow). So I was pressured quite heavily to change the event date. I was mortified. Reschedule International Women’s Day? But it’s an international date! I tried to reason with them – I mean, the whole world agreed on one day a year, surely I could hold up my end and stick to the date? Eventually they gave in, and the event was held to huge success (take that, snow!). But I was left wondering why I seemed to be the only one prioritizing this very important day. Another important goal for International Women’s Day is spreading the message of celebration and support for all women. Everyone wishes each other a Happy Women’s Day both in person and online. Google even releases a special doodle for the day, which is great in terms of promotion and discussion. What better way to get people talking than to force an image on their browser page? But this year I worried that the Google Doodle for International Women’s Day 2013 was worse than no Doodle at all. Google’s Doodle (pictured above) was a step backwards for this day, and for women’s achievements all over the world. I read countless articles, posts and tweets raving about its “diversity” and how far we’ve come. How exactly is it diverse? On first glance, it appears to be what everyone is saying – a collage of women’s faces, in different colors, shapes and sizes. However you’ll notice on a closer look that all the faces actually have light skin and traditionally Caucasian features. Out of 27 faces, Google couldn’t be bothered to draw ONE African, Asian, Indian, Islander or anyone with naturally darker skin or different facial features? And they thought TINTING WHITE FACES would be the solution? Needless to say, I was enraged, and took to facebook and twitter to let the Women’s Day organizers, and anyone else who would listen, know that this image should not be celebrated. That, particularly in 2013, we could and should do better! I tried to explain that diversity means inclusion of all cultures, and a huge part of that is having a representation of my face, my friend’s faces, hell even our FIRST LADY’S face in this drawing. But you know – there’s a woman in a Hijab and another wearing cornrows so we should all just call it a day, right? Thanks for throwing us a bone, Google! For recognizing us mere women on our special day! It’s not like we make up half of the world’s population or anything! Obviously, I’m still mad about this. And my point is, you should be, too. In 1908, at its inception, Women’s Day served as a reminder that the world was not yet equal, and women here in the US marched against their oppression and demanded equality. Today, thanks to the great achievements of women over the last century, Women’s Day has become less a negative, and more a day of celebration and encouragement. But let us not forget what we want and need to achieve. We are far from equality nationally, let alone internationally. In 1908, Women marched and shouted on the streets of this great city to get their message across. Today we can campaign and spread a message from the comfort of our homes and it will be heard on the other side of the world. So consider this your reminder to keep shouting. By the way, don’t forget to check out The Women’s Issue – a digital mag we created in celebration for Women’s History Month!