March 8, 2020, in Mexico

A significant date can be celebrated, acclaimed, solemnized, commemorated. The question is: “In which category does International Women’s Day belong?”

To define the above, we must first remember why International Women’s Day was established.

As a woman, it is very common to receive greetings, flowers or some gift on March 8 to celebrate the date. However, the historical episode from which it originates has nothing to cheer about.

It is generally known that, historically, to some degree and in accordance with the circumstances of the time which corresponded to them, women have fought for equal opportunities and rights. But it was not until the 19th century, when feminist movements gained strength, among others that of the suffragettes, in search of the women’s claim to obtain the right to vote, to education, to employment equality, to social and family emancipation.

On March 8, but of 1908, in the Cotton Factory in New York, United States, as part of the aforementioned claim, a group of women workers went on strike, demanding a reduction of the working day to 10 hours, better working conditions, but especially asking for equal pay with men who carried out the same activities, that is, equal pay for equal work.

The fight for labor rights of women textile workers continued in subsequent years, until the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York brought to light the appalling working conditions of these workers, mostly immigrants. As the doors of the building were closed, they were unable to leave and hundreds of women died in the casualty.

The following May 3, in Chicago, Women’s Day was celebrated and in 1909, “National Women’s Day” was commemorated in New York for the first time.

In 1910, the “International Conference of Socialist Women” was held in Denmark, Copenhagen, whose main theme was universal suffrage for all women. In this event, Clara Zetkin, German socialist, presented the proposal to establish March 8 as the International Day of Working Women, as a tribute to the women who died in the factory in New York.

In 1977, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) officially established March 8 as “International Women’s Day” with the aim of achieving gender equality and female empowerment. 

In accordance with these antecedents, I consider that we cannot speak of celebrations, but rather of the memory of a date whose past events reveal great injustices and, in view of that, we can try to correct the course in order for acts like these, to not only not repeat themselves, but to constitute a point of redirection towards the correct path: equal rights and opportunities for men and women, substantive and transversal.

The sexual differences between men and women are palpable and visible, but gender differences have been caused, as Marta Lamas defines it, by the set of beliefs, norms, and customs that a given society makes, builds, develops on what it considers to be proper to men and proper to women; thus, a realistic gender perspective must analyze what happens with men and what happens with women in a particular culture, space, perspective or social problem.

In such a way that the challenge is to eliminate stereotypical roles that a certain culture determines for men and for women, the latter marginalized and discriminated against. 

In these circumstances, I believe that the appropriate word is commemoration which, according to the Spanish Royal Academy, means: “To solemnly remember something or someone …”

The commemoration of March 8, the different marches that took place both in Mexico City and throughout the country and the #Un Dia Sin Mujeres, I consider to be unprecedented acts in our country. A reflection of a feminine awakening, which nowadays is already unstoppable.

Yes, an unprecedented event where thousands of women, whatever their ideological, religious, social or political differences, demonstrated the great value of unity.

However, it is necessary to realize that the search for equal rights and opportunities is not a problem that exclusively affects women, but that it corresponds to all of us, men and women alike, because it is convenient for everyone to live in a more egalitarian and consequently fairer country, where men or women have the right to decide, study, govern, work, fight for their dreams and ideals.

I believe, without fear of contradiction, that there is no family in which there is not at least one person of the female sex and in that regard, the question is: “What do we want for our sisters, mothers, daughters, …? What kind of life do we want for them? What country do we want them to inherit?”

I want to end this article with a thought from the analyst Georgina Malrroux, in Profiles of the West in the Third Millennium:

“The irruption of the woman in the classrooms was vertiginous and with it, she achieved the appropriation of her conscience.

The integration of women into paid employment granted her the appropriation of her self-reliance.

Access to contraceptives demystified her sexuality and enabled the appropriation of her body.

Divorce without social stigma meant the appropriation of her civil capacity.

The right to vote represented the appropriation of her citizen personality.

The feminist movement proposed a different vision of the world and asserted the right for women to participate in the construction of history.

They did not always know how to assume their leading role. They could not always. They did not always understand. However, history shows us that their learning was persistent.

That is why the economy, education and morals have changed; little by little, they have been changing the world ”.

This blog post was prepared by Margarita Beatriz Luna Ramos, Justice of the Supreme Court of Mexico and Vice-President of the IAWJ. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.