Aleida Luján Pinelo

March 8 is gone, and debates around this issue have calmed down in the media. However, I want to make a brief review about this day as experienced from Turku.

Maybe not many of our readers are familiar with the genealogy of this day, there are many places like Wikipedia, where one can access to have an overview of the institutionalization of this day. Still, I will offer a brief abstract of it, since it would help for the sake of this writing. The narrative says that, in 1908 textile women workers of the Cotton Textile Factory in New York went on strike, some of their demands covered: decrease of working hours to 10 hours per day, equal salary, one day off a week, and the right to breastfeed. The owner refused the strike and put the fabric on fire, as result 129 worker women died. One year later, as commemoration of that tragic event, socialist women marched in New York demanding for labor and vote rights.

Picture: Aleida Luján Pinelo

In 1910, during the International Socialist Women’s Conference Clara Zetkin promoted the establishment of “one day in the year as International Women’s Day as a day to campaign for women’s right to vote and for the political emancipation of women,”[1] the proposal was accepted and March 8 was chosen for that purpose after the conference. The first international women’s day was held one year later but on March 19, it was celebrated by few countries such as Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland; rallies were organized and some of the demands were right to vote, to occupy public positions, labor rights, education and non-labor discrimination.

Another relevant event, occurred on March 1917, when Russian women demonstrated under the excuse of the Women’s Day; their main concern was starvation conditions after the war. The rallies escalated and transformed in a popular uprising that ended up with the overthrown of the Russian monarchy. Thanks to Alexandra Kollontai March 8―women’s day―was declared a national holiday in Russia. The United Nations celebrated in 1975 the International Women’s Day and, two years later, the celebration was made extensive to all state’s members.[2] There were many interesting events in between these years around the globe, but for reasons of time I cannot address all of them.

Picture: Aleida Luján Pinelo, Facebook, Buenos Aires

For some people March 8 is a day for campaigning in favor of labor rights of women―International Working Women’s Day―for others is a day to celebrate, some celebrate the achievement of some rights for women, and many others simple celebrate “womanhood” (whatever that means to them). On occasion of the International Women’s Day to commemorate women’s struggles to gain work-related rights, a movement of striking women spread across the world, huge demonstrations were organized worldwide, making visible that not all people think that there is something to celebrate but that there is still something to fight for, the demands have historically changed but some remain, as that of equal pay, new ones have been incorporated such as that to end violence towards women. In the pictures one is able to see the magnitude of some of these demonstrations that took place this year.

Because of this context, a colleague and I, made an extensive invitation for people in our Faculty to informally discuss about how this day is experienced in the Finnish context. Some of the questions that we wanted to address were, do Finnish women have reasons to strike too? Do they, for instance, earn the same salary for the same jobs as their male counterparts at all levels? Are unpaid care jobs equally distributed between all parties involved? Or has the glass ceiling been broken already so that women in Finland can access the same positions and equal opportunities as their male counterparts? What about childcare, control of women’s own bodies, and violence against women? Or could it be that equality has been achieved in Finland so that this day is to be, instead, celebrated for that achievement?

Picture: Aleida Luján Pinelo, Facebook, Madrid

Our call did not receive great attendance, but still some subjects came to the table. The fact that in Finland―which according to the 2019 World Happiest Report, is the happiest place to live―women still earn less than their men peers, and they face high levels of violence (Finland has one of the higher numbers of violence against women in the EU). Another relevant issue that was mentioned, was the subject of care. I guess this is one of the challenges we have to face as society if one wants to make a revolutionary change. Some years ago between 2013 and 2014, in a MA course in Granada with Dr. María Ángeles Duran Heras, we addressed the issue of the economy of care, Dr. Duran made us analyze, how much should a state have to pay for care in real numbers, for the elderly, the sick ones, and the children, the costs are so high that states cannot fully assume that task; historically, the family, and in particular women, has been the institution that has taken that responsibility. Usually, women are the ones that care about the others; we, those who have been educated as “women”, are most prompt to take care of the ones we love without even thinking about; if one of the parents get sick, if children get sick, if the sibling is in need of assistance, who are usually there even when no one asked for their help? Having a calendar of birthdays and calling/writing people for their birthday, to remind the list of the shopping, to schedule and remember all the appointments, all that is work that could be shared. Some people raised as men argue in many of these situations “but she did not tell me”, the work of having to tell someone is already tiring for many women, so many of us just do not tell them and rather, do the work. It is not a matter of telling “them” what to do or not but, that “them” act from their own initiative and share all this care work which is also emotional work. I do not remember who said this, but I recall it was something like this, women have achieved to gain more presence in the public sphere but who has overtaken their seat in the private sphere?

Picture: Aleida Luján Pinelo, Facebook, Berlin

I did not attend the demonstration scheduled in Turku, maybe the rain influenced in my mood, or maybe is because I did not feel this huge energy of sorority that in many regions of the world put thousands of women into the streets. The truth is that, from my perspective, there are some things to celebrate but there are still many things to strike for, such as for changing the economy of care. As the picture 1 suggest, I, like many others, do not want roses for one day, I want a life in which we―subjects identify women―are not afraid of being raped, killed, harass, abused, paid less, over exploited (at work and at home), infantilized. I do not want roses, I want not having to worry about how we dress, when at night we walk alone, the possibility of being incarcerated for deciding not to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, and the list goes on. Here, from a small town in the happiest country to live, women still have motives to not just celebrate.

Aleida Luján Pinelo is a PhD candidate at the University of Turku

[1] My emphasis. The Socialist International Women, “A Brief History,” Socialist International Women, 

[2] Wikipedia, “International Women’s Day,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,