How to celebrate International Women’s Day
Empower the women in your life through literature, film, and proactive engagement.

International Women’s Day makes its appearance on our calendar as we flip it over to March. Taking place on March 8, International Women’s Day not only focuses on women’s rights movement but also recognizes them for their achievements, whether they are social, cultural, economic, or political. The holiday serves as a time to reflect on women’s role throughout history, paying tribute to all the amazing things women have done without acknowledgement.

But let’s be honest, how many of us actually make time to celebrate International Women’s Day instead of just acknowledging it? 

Literature often carries the power to illuminate one’s perspective. It is said that a woman will die, but not her idea. Through reading literature, we travel back in time, immersing ourselves in the narrator’s thoughts and experiences, bringing words back into life. I remember reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank for the first time. Despite it being set during World War II, revolving around daily life of the wartime, there was one thing that I could not help but keep thinking of as I read the book: “Anne Frank was also just a girl.” 

At the age of only 15, Frank was able to portray the challenges many women face during their lives within her words. The suppression under male dominance, the wondrous dreams we have about if the patriarchy did not exist, and the life we could have if there was no such thing as misogyny. 

Literature of this kind, like Frank’s diary, fosters empathy and allow us to dive into the heartbreaking fact that gender inequality has existed long ago and continues to exist in many forms today, such as access to education, child marriage, and the gender pay gap in workplaces.

On the other hand, in the film industry, women are often portrayed in a stereotypical way, and that is not surprising when the filmmakers are mostly heterosexual men. Of course, they are just as talented and hardworking as the women are, but without firsthand experiences of being a woman, it becomes challenging to convey the women’s perspectives. But fear not, my ladies. Within ourselves, we also have some of the most talented and empowering women directors, such as Greta Gerwig and Sofia Coppola, who changed the way women are being represented in movies. For example, the release of the movie Barbie has marked another milestone in feminist history. Being the feminist icon as she has been since the ’60s, Barbie allows young girls to imagine themselves being anything and anyone they want, not just a pretty doll living for the male gaze. 

“To be a woman is to perform.” A sentiment I believe many women can relate to. Despite working hard and doing things solely for themselves, there are still people who see women as inferior, or that everything they do is either less relevant or that they are doing it for the “attention.”

Already watched Barbie when it was first released? Don’t worry, other films like Marie Antoinette and Priscilla are also amazing works realized by female directors for the purpose of combatting to the challenging stereotypes and in affirmation of women’s complexities. They tell a story from a woman’s perspective, showing the heart of the matter of the challenges women deal with on a day-to-day basis. I highly recommend watching any of these movies to open your perspective regarding women’s experiences.

Mere recognition of the problem of gender inequality is not enough. If you are ready to take the next step and make some changes, consider reaching out to organizations dedicated to women’s rights and empowerment. Within the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), we have the UTM Women Student Association—an inclusive student group dedicated to fostering a strong community among women students. The association often holds fundraising events to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. It is a perfect opportunity for anyone looking for a fun and easy way to get engaged with and make changes in society. 

If you are looking to further expand your network outside of campus, the YWCA Canada is a voluntary organization aimed at providing support to Women of Colour and newcomers to Canada. You can take a small step by donating to charity or by signing up as a volunteer for their events. 

Do you have women in your life that you deeply appreciate? Take action today with words of affirmation. Simply put aside a moment to call or text, or even better, say affirmations in person to express your gratitude for having them in your life and for the support they have provided to you.

Many times, we are so used to the idea of having a woman performing the role of a mother, having them do all the tasks around the household without acknowledging them. You can change this on International Women’s Day this year by saying thanks and showing your support to them. Let us continue the celebration, empowerment, and unity that this day is all about by taking action!


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