Iowa State discusses the importance of International Women’s Day


Hannah Olson / Iowa State Daily

Thousands circled the Iowa State Capitol to raise awareness for women’s issues during the Women’s March in Des Moines on Saturday. 

Mary Pautsch

International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide for more than a hundred years, uniting people to fight for gender equality on March 8.

The first official International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. More than a million men and women rallied for women’s rights to work, vote, hold public office and end discrimination.

Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated differently across the globe. It is a recognized national holiday in 27 countries, but not in the United States.

In some countries, such as Italy, women get the day off work. Many use the day to bring attention to various issues regarding gender and feminism.

“It’s important to have an International Women’s Day because every other day is ‘international men’s day,’” Christiana Langenberg, advising coordinator for women’s and gender studies, said. “It’s kind of sad that we only get to set aside one single day for all women.”

Emily Southard, co-director of the Society of the Advancement of Gender Equity (SAGE), also agreed that it’s important to focus on what is happening not only in the United States but also overseas.

“The struggles of women are connected to the struggles of classism, nationalism, racism and imperialism,” Southard said. “Women deserve human rights everywhere, not just in the wealthier countries.”

Southard also said that women’s lives are more at stake in other countries than in the United States.

“There are 10 million missing women in the world due to femicide and gender bias,” she said.

Langenberg believes that women in the United States and across the globe seem to be taking a greater stand against gender inequality and misogyny.

She said the current political environment in the United States has sparked a willingness to engage in activism, such as the Women’s March that took place in cities around the world in January.

“There are more things at stake that affect women on a personal level,” Langenberg said. “That makes it easier to get involved.”

Southard added that the United States has an influence on other nations when it comes to political policies regarding equal rights for any marginalized group of individuals.

“The U.S. has a disproportionate influence on global women’s issues, as many other countries look to us as an example,” Southard said. “And our international policy and funding decisions affect women around the world. For example, with the Mexico City convention that limits funding to family planning organizations that discuss abortion.”

Langenberg, who also instructs a few courses in women’s studies, said that despite the increasingly more common fight for women’s rights, she has still been met with reluctance from both male and female students.

“People are so scared to call themselves feminists,” Langenberg said. “They act like it’s saying the f-word or something. It’s not a curse word.”

Langenberg also recalled a time when she was indirectly confronted for her beliefs on gender equality.

She once owned a bumper sticker on her car that read, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” One day she returned to her car to find that the sticker had been defaced, and an unfriendly note was left on her windshield.

“Whoever it was had taken a knife or blade of some sort and scratched out the bumper sticker so it wasn’t readable,” Langenberg said.

Langenberg said the day should not only look at the struggles women face day-to-day, but it also should be a happy event that celebrates women and all they can do.

“We need to have that kind of recognition,” she said. “In a lot of countries, women are still second-class citizens. Even here in America we aren’t inherently equal.”

Various events on campus are taking place in honor of International Women’s Day. SAGE will have a booth set up in the Agora to pass out purple ribbons, the official color of the holiday, and give out information on the day and feminism.

A discussion will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in Morrill Hall to discuss women in the arts throughout history.

Langenberg will give out treats to her students for the holiday, which is the same day as her birthday.

“I feel like I’m not just celebrating for myself, but for every other woman out there,” Langenberg said.