How many Americans even know that every year March 8 is designated as International Women's Day?
I was born in 1959, and lived all my life in the US, and I had never even heard of it until I was in Mongolia one year in the late 90s. In Mongolia, as in all former or current communist or socialist countries, International Women's day is a big deal. Women frequently get off work, or can leave early, and groups of women go out and celebrate together. Women receive gifts and flowers, not unlike Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, but it is also a day for women to break away from responsibilities and from the men, to let loose and have some fun. It isn't unusual to see boisterous groups of women in various stages of intoxication and talkative good cheer in restaurants or bars, or moving between private parties. It's almost like the whole country throws a giant bachelorette party, but without the gaudy commercialized catering by a specialized wedding and entertainment industry. But it is also a day to raise the awareness of imp0rtant political or economic issues that effect the lives of women.
International Women's Day actually began in the US in 1909, and was initially a part of the Socialist movement's efforts to advance the cause of women's rights. Perhaps it is because it started out as, and remained for many decades, an exclusively socialist goal to work for women's right to vote, to have the option to break free of the drudgery of domestic servitude and to work or become educated and have a profession, that International Women's Day has remained largely unacknowledged and not widely celebrated in the conservative patriarchal capitalist world of the United States.
My wife is from Mongolia, and she grew up under a Soviet dominated communist system. In Mongolia, a country that has lived under communism, even today in a fledgling democratic capitalist economy, people have a much different attitude toward communism than Americans generally do. Many Mongolians recall the communist era as a time of virtually non-existant crime, economic equality and economic modesty, free education and healthcare, and a deep sense of security and social harmony. There are also bad memories of abuses of government authority, and especially negative are the memories of the persecution of Buddhist monks and the destruction of monastaries. But today, in a thriving capitalist system, many people, especially the older generations, are angry and resentful over the extremes of economic inequality, the exploitation of the country's mineral resources by a few powerful entrepreneurs, the corruption of democratic institutions and elections, and the rising levels of crime and poverty that were non-existant in the communist era.
It seems an odd irony that in communist countries there would be a day actively celebrating the freedom and individual rights of women, while in America women are celebrated primarily as mothers or as romantic partners on Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. I think this doesn't seem so ironic to former communists. In Mongolia, whenever I performed any act of kindness or generosity, I would be called a communist. Unlike in the US, it is a high form of compliment to call someone a good communist, kind of like calling someone a good Christian or a good citizen in America.