International Women’s Day is celebrated in different ways around the world, but I did not quite know the extent of these national particularities until I had the opportunity to spend it in Spain. The official page of UN says the following about this day: “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”
Underlining the word communities in this definition of what International Women’s day can signify, I can start explaining the differences between my home country, Romania, and Spain. Opening my laptop that day I was pleasantly welcomed by the sight of online newspapers and magazines from both countries celebrating women who’ve contributed to the world’s progress over time, but also by reminders that women and men are still not equal in many situations, such as equal pay and opportunities. This is something that I admire, and also something that should happen every day because I am sure that there inequality in the women/men ration in media as well.
What did surprise me tremendously is a lack of joy which I had gotten accustomed to in Romania, and which I did not see in Spain. For Romanians, the first week of March is magical. It starts with the 1st of March which is when we welcome spring by offering to everyone around us little gifts tied with red and white strings, and culminates with the 8th of March when every woman is celebrated by the men, and women around her by small or big acts of appreciation. It does help that it’s not expensive or hard to find a flower shop where one can buy Hyacinths in white, blue, pink or purple. This particular flower has an amazing smell which I will always relate in my heart with the beginning of spring. It is almost impossible not to get a colorful flower, be it real or made from paper, from somebody on this particular day in Romania. And it’s not just that men give women something, but it is women also who give out gifts to other women they love and appreciate.
In Spain, the 8th of March is simply International Women’s day. It’s admirable that the society does try to come up with ways of educating people about gender inequality and gender violence, and it should be a daily civic lesson in any country. Perhaps my perspective about how Spanish people perceive this day is subjective because I have 24 years of celebrating 8th of March, but I failed to see the joy on women’s faces because it was not a celebration of all women. It was not a day of looking around at the women around you and saying “thank you for existing”. It was a day of maybe participating in a lesson of history if you were in a classroom or drawing the line and see how little the society has advanced in creating social and economic equality. What 8th of March signifies for me is an opportunity to look at the real, complex, flawed and beautiful women around me, women who might not change the world’s history, but change my history, my life and my perspective by giving me an example of how to deal with life and by giving me support. It’s a day of colors, joy, smiles, and hugs. It’s perhaps a more soulful way of reminding the world that women are worth just as much as men, and they are definitely worth fighting for. The struggle for equality continues, but my 8th of March is much more than a lesson in history. It’s a look in the present, and a celebration of the women I admire, love and care for.