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International Women's Day Is Not for Shout-outs

Yesterday was March 8, 2021. I looked at my LinkedIn newsfeed and saw lots of posts thanking women - professionals who shared their gratitude for the women who have mentored them, who work with them, who work for them. 

And my reaction? 




I remember when International Women's Day was for feminist policy wonks who cared about equitable development around the world, equal pay for all women, and human rights. The slogans heard at gatherings to recognize the day were not about gratitude but about human rights - and the deep, intense need to have all humans' rights recognized, no matter their sex or gender. 

It's not exactly a bad thing, of course, for International Women's Day to be a household phrase - if it even has achieved that. But we lose something when a day originally designed to bring together people fighting for human rights becomes "Thank a Woman!" day.

International Women's Day was a thing long before I was a wonky graduate student in the early 2000s, and long before my birth - there's a detailed history dating to 1908 at the website. And it includes labor strikes, conferences about ending violence against women, and philanthropic work to empower girls around the world.  

Did you know the theme for International Women's Day 2021 was "Choose to Challenge?" It's about challenging sexism and gender bias throughout the world. 

Challenging sexism might include recognizing the achievements of women you know.

It's not about thanking women for the work we do.

In fact, I'd rather not be thanked. At least, not because I am a woman. If you're going to thank you me in a public post, it would be great to have the reason be that you've paid me equitably for my work and the work I did completely amazed you in its brilliance. 

Yes, I'm talking about money - I'd rather be paid what you would pay a person named Robert or John, than be thanked for my work. 

I'd rather not have my expertise questioned because you see me as "female" on any of the other 364 days of the year, than get a post thanking me for my work on March 8. 

I'd rather see data detailing men's increased time spent doing household chores.

I'd rather be able to trust that the large companies with slick, branded International Women's Day campaigns have 50% female-identifying people throughout leadership - or see 50% of Fortune 500 CEOs being people who identify as women.  

None of that is happening yet. 

The next time someone talks to you about how to celebrate women or recognize women's empowerment, maybe ask them what THEY are doing to empower women. 

It's not that optics aren't important. But there is a serious question about just what the optics are reflecting - rather than distracting from. 

Perhaps avoid posting about how a woman's work has helped you, directly or indirectly - maybe save that for another day or even write a personal gratitude letter directly to them if you truly feel a deep gratitude for them. 

Then think about what you can DO, instead of a post, that truly creates a change in the world. 


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