International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th. What if we were to celebrate femininity regardless of gender instead? In this Design Stories column, The Soft Collective from Helsinki shares their thoughts on how we could update the celebration to the 21st century.
“GIVEN ALL THE DIVERSE gender identities around us, a gendered women’s day is a very cis-centric way of looking at the world. In other words, it relies heavily on the assumption that everyone identifies with the gender assigned to them at birth and unambiguously presents as such. This does not mean that womanhood should not be celebrated, but is it not time to update this celebration to include everyone who suffers from gender inequality? How could we take into account trans women’s and nonbinary people’s experiences of gender inequality, or their insights into femininity, for example?
In 1908, a total of 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York for better pay, shorter working days and the right to vote. These women made their voices heard – not only because they wanted to be treated with respect, but also to receive the recognition they deserved for the work they did. For the United Nations, International Women's Day has been celebrated since 1975. It was born out of the first and second waves of feminism. First-wave feminism focused on the equality between men and women, while the second wave of the movement turned their attention to the distribution of power between genders, women’s needs and the accessibility of contraception.
THESE DEVELOPMENTS HAVE molded feminism into a multi-faceted, diverse ideology that allows us to speak up about gender rights using an intersectional lens, taking into account many other differences than merely gender. Indeed, women’s rights have improved over the past decades. However, gender inequality persists, often targeting especially transgender or nonbinary individuals and sex workers in an especially vicious and violent manner.
“There is no reason why on this day, as we celebrate progress and equality, we could not afford to also take into account different identities and experiences of femininity as well.”
There is no reason why on this day, as we celebrate progress and equality, we could not afford to also take into account different identities and experiences of femininity as well. For example, nonbinary people, i.e. people whose gender identity transcends a binary understanding of gender, also suffer from gender inequality. If the core mission of Women’s Day is to celebrate the progress towards equality and highlight social, economic, political and cultural victories, it would make sense for us to focus on the diverse experiences of femininity that surround us instead of limiting our attention to the cisgender people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
JUST AS WE HAVE updated feminist concepts as we learn and grow to understand more about ourselves and each other, it is now time for us to update the concept of Women’s Day. But are we yet ready to let go of our old assumptions and habits? As we celebrate the achievements of equality work, we should also remember that there are people in our communities who face discrimination in various areas of their lives. Many transgender people still have to fight to even have their own gender legally recognized.
With the Day of Femininity, we want to celebrate the feminine experience – regardless of body or identity. Instead of flowers, chocolate or girlboss hype, this celebration highlights both the privileges and opportunities associated with femininity, as well as the multifaceted forms of discrimination perpetuated by our society. It is only when we are able to recognize the discrimination in our own communities that we can create a safer, freer and more equal world for all of us.”
Text: Caroline Suinner and Meriam Trabelsi / The Soft Collective Images: Eetu Laine