“All the great legends are Templates for human behavior. I would define a myth as a story that has survived.” – John Boorman
Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition. – Marilyn Monroe
March 8 is globally recognized as the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrating the social, economic, academic, cultural and political achievements of women. Thus is far beyond of worshiping feminility. History tells us that originally IWD was dedicated to female strikes so that the women could be heard and understood by the rest of society. With time passing the necessity and euphoria of strikes declined. And together with that a new tradition was born. Today, on March 8, all over the world men are giving flowers to all women – from family members and friends to collegues and teachers.
Yet, still today this day also represents a “call to action” to accelerate and improve gender equality all over the world.
Italy and The International Women’s Day
Here In Italy, to celebrate the International Women’s Day (La Festa della Donna), Italian men give the traditional yellow mimosa to their dear and lovely women. And maybe chocolates.
True, Italian men should show their love and care every day of the year. True, the IWD is increasingly criticized for becoming some sort of a commercial and marketing initiative. Yet, it has become a tradition that Italian men would buy tiny sprigs of mimosa. A part of the proceedings from the sales of mimosa goes to support various women orientated projects: from shelters for subjects of violence to breast cancer research and associations run by women in Third World Countries.
As for Italian women, they usually celebrate La Festa della Donna in “women-only” late dinners and parties, which often include male strippers. Curious, isn’t it? Seems like once in a while Italian women want to feel as men do and transgress the unwritten rules of good behaviour and feminility. True, Italian women don’t need a special day or occasion to go out and celebrate a “women-only night”, but they live this particular night with immense enthusiasm. So, let’s have fun!
Mistaken Assumptions about The International Women’s Day
While searching for up-to-date information on how and where Italian women are going to celebrate the International Women’s Day 2017, by pure chance I’ve stumbled in the following post. I was somewhat taken aback. Let’s see. “Intanto va detto che l’usanza di regalare mimose è solo italiana, mentre la giornata della donna si festeggia in tutto il mondo dal 1977″. – “Meanwhile, it must be said that the tradition of giving mimosa is just Italian, while the Women’s Day is celebrated around the world since 1977″.
Wrong. Or better, double wrong.
However, to my gratest surprise, most of my Italian friends shared these two assumptions. So I’ve started asking around. Appeared that most Italian people think just the same. In addition, many Italian people are convinced that the IWD is celebrated in honor of the strike held on March 8, 1857 in New York City.
Ops! Seems like popular Italian assumptions about the IWD are so wrong on so many levels!
- First, the tradition of giving mimosa is not just Italian.
- Second, the Women’s Day is celebrated around the world not only since 1977.
- Third, the strike held on March 8, 1857 in New York is a mere political myth.
Let’s adjust the picture.
1. Mimosa Is Not Just Italian Symbol of International Women’s Day
True, in Italy the yellow mimosa are officially recognized as the symbol of the International Women’s Day.
In 1946 the Unione Donna Italiana (Italian Woman Union), whilst preparing for the celebrations of the IWD, decided to choose an object to symbolize the event. It was Teresa Mattei who chose these bright yellow flowers as an emblem of Women’s Day. She felt that the French symbols of the March 8 – violets and lily-of-the-valley – were too rare and too expensive to be used efficiently in Italy. On the other hand, mimosa was in blossom right at this time of year. In addition, it was quite economic and often free since in many places of Italy the plant was “savage”.
In addition, In Italy yellow colour represents the light of God and hence is the symbol of the sun, wisdom, idealism and action. Moreover, the yellow colour corresponds to a state of freedom and self-development and denotes a strong personality.
Russia and Eastern Europe
Yellow mimosa and chocolate are the most common IWD’s presents not only in Russia, but also in the rest of Eastern Europe. This is particulary true to such countries as Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
Yet, why mimosa amongst all? First, because Mimosa is the only flower that blossoms in the begining of March on the Caucasian shore of Black Sea. Moreover, it was the only flower available throughout Russia and most of East European countries. Second, Mimosa is the only flower that seems delicate yet it is cold resistent. Third, it’s name means “secret love and elegance” and hence reflects the women’s feminility. So, the mere fact of giving mimosa to woman symbolizes that the man acknowledges the female fragility. And, at the same time, worships her ability of being resitent!
Moreover, to many cultures within the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe the bright yellow colour of mimosa is a symbol of vitality and joy. Besides, mimosa also represents the passage from death to life, as the spring itself.
2. March 8 – Origins and History
Some Italian people belive that La Festa della Donna is celebrated around the world since 1977. However, the IWD has a much older history. Let’s see. And meanwhile, let’s think about: “why March 8”?
True, the very first observance of then National Woman’s Day (NWD) was held in New York on February 28, 1909. The celebration was establish in remembrance of the strike held in 1908 by 15,000 of American women who marched through New York City to protest the inadequate pay, inhumane working conditions and the lack of the right to vote. The event took lives of 146 fragile yet brave women.
American women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
In 1910, during a Second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen, a woman named Clara Zetkin proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day that should be a celebrated every year in every country on the same day to press for their demands. Over 100 female delegates from 17 countries greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval. However, no date was specified at that conference.
This way, the IWD was honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, study, hold public office and end sex discrimination.
Right on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February, 1913. In the years leading up to 1914 there were different women-led strikes, marches, and other protests. Yet again, none of them happened on March 8.
As for 1977… True, in the Western Europe the International Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after December 1977. When the General Assembly of United Nations adopted a resolution proclaiming a UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace. The General Assembly invited Member States to fix the event on any day of the year, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. Once again, no one mentioned March 8 specifically.
What took the UN so long? Well, I am close to the point…
3. Denial of Popular Myth
Most Italian people believe that the IWD is celebrated on March 8 in honor of the protest that took place on March 8, 1857 in New York City. The strike was held by female garment workers to demand better working conditions, higher wages and the right to vote. However, appears like this event is a popular myth, since there is no trace of it in US newspapers from 1857. Neither in fact the leaders of the International Sosialist Movement of Working Women, who founded the IWD, have ever mentioned the argument.
Yet, where does the myth of the strike of March 8, 1857 come from?
It was the French daily L’Humanité, that mentioned the strike of March 8th 1857 for the first time in 1955. Since then the event was featured in the press every year. No wonder, this legendary origin had slowly taken precedence over reality.
Yet, why March 8 after all?
Appears like in 1914 the International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday. Following discussions on the global scale, the authorities decided to fix the IWD on March 8 throughout the world. Ever since March 8 has become the global date for International Women’s Day.
Why creating a myth?
The thing is, that few years later, on March 8, 1917, Russian female workers’ uprisings in Petrograd (today St Petersburg) became the first day of the Russian revolution by the Bolsheviks. March 8 became an opportunity for communist parties to mobilize women. Hence the holiday has gain a new connotation.
As for “myth creation”… My guess is that during the Cold War Western countries wanted to separate March 8 from the Soviet history. They believed that the communist celebration of IWD had become too socialist and too reactionary. By bringing American female workers into the picture, the Western press presented the Interational Women’s Day in a new light. That of the struggle of women workers, not communists.
Here and Now
This way or the other, it’s March 8, after all. And by the 2017, the world has witnessed a significant shift towards women’s equality and emancipation. So, dear women, let’s commemorate and celebrate. Without ever forgeting who really is a blind side! XoXo
What are your plans for this evening?
This post is also available in: Русский (Russian)