March 8 is International Women’s Day: one day in 365 where we celebrate the achievements and aspirations of the gender that makes up half of the human population of our planet.
We also get a hashtag.
This year, when it seems like every second headline is filled with bad news for women, it is easy to dismiss International Women’s Day as meaningless. After all, we’ve been celebrating a form of it since at least 1909, and we’re still justifying why women should be allowed to bust ghosts. If we can’t even get that sorted, how far have we come?
Women have come really far. No, seriously. Really, super far.
Any way you look at it — in education, health, politics, and culture — women are making big leaps forward. Here’s how:
More women are getting an education than ever before.
1. U.S. women are serious about higher learning.
2. STEM isn’t a boy’s club anymore.
3. Call it the Malala effect: Pakistani schoolgirls are getting easier access to education.
Female politicians aren’t a rarity any more.
4. After decades of activism, political progress is happening in India.
5. Canada has a new government that’s serious about gender parity.
6. Female politicians are breaking the highest glass ceilings all over the world.
We’ve made huge leaps forward in female health care and in protecting newborn babies.
7. Having beautiful, healthy babies is safer than ever before.
8. Birth control is here for women who want it.
Female entertainers are making more and doing more.
9. A once-in-a-generation female voice is breaking 15-year-old sales records.
10. Local libraries are stocked with female authors.
Women are fighting big battles — and winning them.
11. Laggard governments are taking action on violence against women.
12. New laws will let little girls stay kids as long as they want.
And women in America are turning up when it really matters.
13. American women are serious about democracy.
All of these figures are encouraging, but they’re definitely not a sign that women need to step back and take a break.
Because, when it comes down to it, who run the world?
Even with great leaps forward, there are so, so many more ways women are still unequal: We still make, on average, 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. We are less likely to become CEOs. We are, in some U.S. states, rapidly seeing male politicians restrict our ability to make our own reproductive health choices. We need politicians and law enforcement to get serious about justice for victims of violence and rape, and we need to be ready to stand in our power and replace them if they won’t stand up for us.
And, let’s be really real — white feminists like me are only just starting to recognize the ways fighting for feminist equality can marginalize women of color, and we’re not doing nearly enough to address it. Women deserve more than a day, a week, or even a month of recognition for us to collectively get closer to where we should rightfully be.
But all that said, I’m still celebrating International Women’s Day today. Because the way I see it, making a big-ass deal out of the one day we do get is just another way to remind everyone that we deserve so much more.