By Leora Mosman | Opinion Columnist
International Women’s Day is a product of the working class. Though it is recognized in the U.S. on the same tier as “National Doughnut Day” or “International Fanny Pack Day”, International Women’s Day holds more significance in other countries than it does here. The reason relates to the acknowledgement, or lack thereof, of class.
Originating during the early twentieth century, International Women’s Day was created to celebrate women’s achievements in political, social, economic, and cultural realms while also raising awareness to the huge inequalities, double standards, and dangers that stem from being born female. For more than a century, the holiday has been commemorated every year on Mar. 8. Yet why—for gender issues that are entirely universal—is International Women’s Day only just now gaining attention in the United States?
After the election of Donald Trump, social organizing and civilian mobilization are reaching levels across the nation that have not been seen since the Vietnam War. The public inertia to become politicized and get involved have led us to skyrocketing rates of political participation that have largely been absent in this country in my generation. If democracy relies on the participation of citizens, the United States has fallen short of its own ideals.
The current political administration of this country seems to have jump-started something big, a political revolution some might say. Yet what has yet to gain explicit attention is the fact that much of the organizing is taking place among working class communities.
There is a large reluctance in the United States to attribute any behavior directly to a specific class, even though class is legitimately inseparable from political participation. The consistent emphasis and use of the term “middle class” has contributed to the erasure of other classes from the political spectrum. This new era of mobilization, however; has slowly started to reintroduce the term “working class” into our vocabulary – a move that is critical in order to truly make a movement revolutionary.
So how does International Women’s Day relate to this? International Women’s Day, in some countries entitled “International Working Women’s Day” has historically been a holiday that centralizes the contributions and struggles of women who make up the global workforce. Neglecting to recognize the relationship between women and their class perpetuates the erasure of a class that has a rich history of political participation largely stemming from their position in relation to production.
In the United States, the reluctance to recognize class relates strongly to our capitalist values. Socioeconomic injustice in and of itself contradicts the very economic system that our country is built on. Capitalism, which requires inequality in order to function, actively denies the injustices of “upper” and “lower,” which explains why so many avoid the terms all together.
Almost everyone has agreed to categorize themselves as “middle class” in order to create as little friction as possible. Most people understand the term “middle class” to reflect a salary amount, but class is truly determined by one’s relation to the means of production: are you working or are you the owner? Being both the “owning class” or the “working class” seems to carry an aspect of shame which individuals are resistant to identifying with, so people have opted instead for a false center.
It makes sense—it’s easy. Yet failing to acknowledge one’s true class identity contributes to the invisibility of classist oppression. In other countries, International Women’s Day works to shed light on the oppression that the working class endure—oppression which is perpetuated by the competitive nature of our global economic system.
Our current president has changed this habit by activating previously dormant citizens and urging them to participate. On March 8, a new campaign was created to bring attention to the previous invisibility of working women in this country. “A Day Without a Woman” has mobilized women and allies across the nation to demonstrate the power that resides when a class unites.
For the first time in decades, the possibility of a class identity seems possible. Without radical unity that embraces individuals of all races, genders, orientations, nationalities, and languages, there will be no movement that is strong enough to bring the social change that is needed. Workers unite!
Leora Mosman is one of five columnists featured in the Opinion Section. She is a politics major with a minor in taking down the white supremacist patriarchy. She stays busy as a Resident Advisor and as the student coordinator for the GaelPantry and Solidarity Suppers.