photo: Lindsey LaMont.
Growing up, the meaning of March 8th has changed a lot for me over the years. When I was younger, Women’s Day was simply when my father would bring home flowers for my mother, myself and my sister, a Soviet tradition my parents had brought with them from Kazakhstan.
Later as a teen, it was to feel a sense of sisterhood as I texted my best girlfriends “Happy Women’s Day!” and exchanged with them words of encouragement after yet another day of navigating high school sexism from boys in our class.
Now today as an adult, March 8th reminds me to take a moment to reflect on women’s issues I care about, whether personal or systemic, while also celebrating myself and the women around me.
Of course International Women’s Day – now a public holiday in Berlin since 2019 – could have a different meaning for everyone. I was curious to find out how other women in Berlin feel about it and asked around on my social networks to get their thoughts.
Ranging from personal reflection to criticisms of systemic sexism still happening in Germany, here’s what 6 women had to say.
photo: Brianna Santellan
Šárka, who also has a former-Soviet background like myself, wrote “I am from a post-Communist country and I still remember how powerful this celebration was. The slogans about female peacekeepers… wow! But now it only means this to me – a gift from my husband and a gift for my mom. I don’t demand it, it’s just like that. Why not?”
Fellow iHeartBerlin writer, Adri, said she doesn’t really celebrate Women’s Day as a public holiday and would prefer more active ways to bring attention to women’s issues…
“It’s nice to know that we have the day off now, but it feels like any other random holiday that I don’t celebrate still. Take for example what the BVG did last year, they made tickets cheaper for women to highlight the wage gap and actually combat it. Promotions like that that really highlight the discrepancies in gender are much more powerful than simply giving everyone the day off,” Adri wrote. “I also think that women’s day may be too little, too late. We’ve progressed past the notion that gender is fixed and binary, so perhaps womxn’s day would be a better term.”
Peggy also doesn’t find that making March 8th a public holiday is enough to truly make a difference.
“Whilst having a public holiday for International Women’s Day bolsters Berlin’s claim to be a progressive utopia, it’s nothing more than a fig leaf to cover up German society’s lack of care and regard for women’s rights,” she explained.
Some criticisms Peggy has about sexist systems still in place in Germany include contraception not being covered by already expensive health insurance, as well as issues surrounding abortion rights.
“Abortion is also an extra cost for women to bear in the majority of cases,” Peggy wrote. “Which by the way is not even legal in Germany – merely decriminalized – and only available up to the 12th week of pregnancy…and is only available after having counselling. Abortion was only included on the curriculum of Charite medical teaching hospital in 2019 so there is a severe shortage of doctors who can actually carry out abortions, and in many parts of Germany, women are forced to travel hundreds of miles, sometimes to another country, just to access reproductive rights.”
Elisa previously hadn’t given Women’s Day much thought but wants to start commemorating the meaning of this day going forward.
“I think that while we are getting more conscious and speaking up more about issues, such as wage gap, sexual abuse, and overall oppression/stigma by society and the media, it is a nice opportunity to take the day to celebrate and support other women,” Elisa wrote. “So this year I started following an Instagram page that suggests books written by women and that focus on social issues and feminism. I have been writing down the titles that most interest me so I can buy them ASAP and spend women’s day actively reading and learning. Maybe this might even become my personal women’s day tradition.”
photo: roya ann miller
Veronica feels that it’s important to not forget the true meaning of this day and to resist the recent commercialization of female empowerment.
“International Women’s Day to me is an opportunity to bring attention to and correct wrong narratives around women,” she wrote. “Society has been trying to commercialize this event. However – like the rest of the year – this is a day to fight, to stand up, and explain to men that we wouldn’t need an International Women’s Day if only gender equality would be achieved.”
Like many, Lisa also takes this day as a chance to reflect on inequalities that affect women.
“For me personally, Women‘s Day marks an opportunity to reflect on topics such as female empowerment, gender pay gap, women‘s rights, minorities, gender-specific oppression around the world, etc. The list is long,” Lisa explained. “Of course, it‘s the same question as with Valentine‘s Day: Do we really need a specific date to show some love for achievements that should have happened a long time ago? In my eyes, we do. Of course, women’s rights should be a topic 365 days a year but as reality doesn’t really serve us with equality, the 8th of March needs to speak for itself.”
Lisa plans to spend time with her mom, taking the day off to do something fun while also thinking about how to “smash the patriarchy.”
How do you feel about International Women’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!