International Women’s Day was founded in protest 101 years ago and today it still provides a convenient focus for political, economic and social discrimination affecting women around the world.
There is never any shortage of women’s issues to fill the spotlight on IWD, but we’ve chosen to identify 10 things worth celebrating, applauding and simply feeling good about. Keep this list in mind the next time you feel like things never change.
We hope you’ll find activities or causes in your area that support women’s rights and achievements everywhere. A good place to start is always the National Organization for Women — the image above is one of the winning entries in its 2012 Love Your Body poster campaign.
Here’s our list:
1. Nude Photo Revolutionaries Calendar
Conceived by human rights activist Maryam Namazie, and launched earlier today to mark IWD, this calendar is positively incendiary in its implications. It shows Iranian women living in exile, posing nude to protest the oppression of women across the Muslim world.
The calendar, which was designed by SlutWalk co-founder Sonya Barnett of Toronto, is dedicated to Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, the heroic 20-year-old Egyptian blogger who posted a nude photo of herself on Facebook last fall and ignited a firestorm about women’s sexual rights and personal freedoms under Islam.
This is life-or-death activism from women who are literally putting their bodies on the line. You can support the movement by visiting the ‘Join the Scream‘ Facebook page and tweeting comments with the hashtag #NudePhotoRevolutionary. You can also buy a calendar — proceeds go toward women’s rights groups.
2. Sara Blakely
Does Spanx qualify as feminist product? It probably depends on your point of view. But few people will dispute its impact on fashion and women’s confidence since Sara Blakely launched the groundbreaking shapewear brand in 2000. This week, Sara (41) became the youngest woman to ever make Forbes magazine’s annual list of worldwide billionaires. A tremendous accomplishment from a truly self-made success story.
3. Hollaback Girls
The Hollaback movement to eliminate “street harassment” gets a lot of crap from smart-assed sexists who think a friendly wolf-whistle is an innocent gesture of appreciation, and not part of a spectrum of behaviors up to and including stalking. But 18 countries have already signed a treaty pledging to enact laws to outlaw “unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct” that humiliates and offends women, and today UK prime minister David Cameron joined the list. Cameron has said the treaty will help criminalize stalking and allow the UK to prosecute British citizens wanted for sex crimes in other countries.
4. Dita Rules
With the fashion community eagerly awaiting Dita Von Teese‘s catwalk appearance in Australia to promote her new lingerie line, the burlesque icon struck a blow for natural, curvy women this week. After arriving in Melbourne to audition models for the Von Follies launch show, Dita rejected 12 models for being “too skinny” and banned anyone from using spray tan.
“I want to show all different types and more voluptuous girls,” she said. “It’s important to me we show curvaceous women and fuller-figured girls (that) lingerie looks terrific on girls with shape.”
The Von Follies show takes place on Saturday night. The new line is, so far, exclusive to Target Australia but a worldwide rollout is a certainty.
5. Protecting French Children
The French government took a big step toward protecting children this week with the release of a parliamentary report that recommends outlawing media and fashion activities that sexualize kids. The report from Senator Chantal Jouanno, a key ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy, proposes banning children’s lingerie and youngsters’ beauty pageants and other activities that portray young girls as “sexual morsels”.
The Jouanno report is called “Against Hyper-Sexualization: A New Fight for Equality” and comes on the heels of last year’s Mother’s Union report in the UK that proposed ways to protect kids from sexual imagery and products. The French investigation was prompted by a French Vogue magazine spread featuring a glamorous 10-year-old model. That was followed by the appearance of a new children’s “loungewear” label, Jours Apres Lunes, that used marketing imagery (above) that many people found offensive.
6. Rock The Lips
Because it has a commercial sponsor, the Rock The Lips movement has its share of detractors who question its legitimacy. And let’s face it: getting women to show solidarity by wearing red lipstick on March 8 sounds like another marketing agency’s attempt to create a pre-fab “viral” success story. Still, its core purpose — bringing women together — is always a worthy cause, however it’s done. Plus, donations to Kiva will help support women entrepreneurs in developing countries. Lipstick today, SlutWalk tomorrow.
7. Boxers Skirt Olympics Rule
Hard to imagine this is happening in the 21st Century, but women boxers have won the right to not wear mini-skirts during the upcoming London Olympics. The International Amateur Boxing Association had been under fire for encouraging women to wear skirts in competition as a way of differentiating them from male boxers. Two weeks ago, the AIBA updated its rules to allow athletes to choose whether they prefer boxing shorts or a skirt, which is still preferred by teams from some Muslim countries.
8. Jessica Simpson
It doesn’t matter that it’s been done before by Demi and Claudia and others: Jessica Simpson‘s nude and semi-nude photoshoot in next month’s Elle mag is beautiful. And, like others who have done this sort of thing, it helps remind everyone that pregnancy — and a pregnant women’s body — is a glorious thing, and not something to be hidden.
9. Sandra Fluke
A week ago no one had heard of Sandra Fluke. Today, they’re making greeting cards to celebrate her gutsy stand in the face of blowhard male bullying. And it’s hard to pick Sandra’s most important act: insisting on appearing before a House committee on contraception, or defiantly refusing to accept Rush Limbaugh‘s mealy-mouthed apology. Women everywhere owe her a debt for standing up to the meanest, ugliest and most powerful chauvinist on the planet (sorry Donald, you can’t be #1 in everything) — and winning.
10. A Small Step for Saudi Women
It is mind-boggling to consider that the simple act of buying underwear could be political, but in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia it still is. Six years after labor laws were changed to allow women to work in lingerie stores, the Kingdom finally got around to enforcing the new law in January. The so-called “lingerie revolution” was a major victory for Saudi women, who are denied many basic rights and face staggering unemployment rates.
And what difference has it made? Shop owners say early results indicate the move has meant higher sales, higher profits and lower returns, since Saudi women no longer face the humiliating prospect of having to buy their lingerie from male sales clerks.