Why has International Women’s Day been hijacked by pointless gimmicks?

Sameeha Shaikh
While many events around the globe will mark International Women's Day with serious talks and panel discussions, others plan to address the world event with a sense of lightheartedness - LightRocket

International Women’s Day (IWD) has long been celebrated on 8th March to commemorate women’s achievements – from political to social – while serving as a call for gender equality.

The seeds of the first annual event were sown in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote.

A year later, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman's Day.

The idea to make the day international came from Clara Zetkin, who suggested the idea in 1910 at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. There were 100 women present from 17 countries, and there, they agreed on her suggestion unanimously.

The following year, the event was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, under the guise of an international day for women.

Tomorrow, the world will once again be set abuzz with celebrations surrounding this years #BalanceForBetter theme, which calls for a balanced world with professional and social equality. But while there are many events that seem to serve a wider purpose, like a panel discussion on female empowerment at King’s College featuring the Duchess of Sussex, Annie Lennox and the former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, a growing wave of brands are apparently intent on mining IWD as a marketing opportunity.

Slapping the colour pink on anything they can and putting the word 'empowerment' before a product does not, however, further women's cause.

Sure, these can be passed off as celebrations created with fun in mind, but hijacking an event to highlight their own agendas just takes an important day away from its roots.  Here is a run down of some of the gimmicky nonsense going on this IWD:

Sing for the trees

In celebration of the crucial role played by trees in alleviating climate change and the vital role women play in restoring the world’s forests, global women-led reforestation movement TreeSisters will bring together over almost 70 events in 20 countries around the globe, from Kenya to Nepal, in which thousands of women worldwide will be gather together to ‘sing for the trees’.

Pollyanna Darling, spokesperson for TreeSisters, who is leading the Sing for the Trees campaign, says: “Singing for the trees is a way of making a connection with the forests we love.”

Year of the axe throwing woman

To highlight the the lumberjack sport’s popularity with female participants, Forged Axe Throwing has launched the ‘year of the axe throwing woman’. 

Leading the initiative, Krista Mackie, part of the Forged team and a competitor in the recent National Axe Throwing Tournament in Toronto, is seeking to tell the stories of women in axe throwing, promoting the unique and non-conforming pastime.

“For me, axe throwing has improved my self-confidence and given me a sense of empowerment. I knew this must be the case for other women too, so decided to start something of a movement for the ladies who just can’t bury the hatchet!” she explains.  

Axe throwing: for women who just can't bury the hatchet

Assome!

In a poor attempt to showcase their support for IWD, body tech company Assome! are promoting their ultrasonic massager, which combines LED, radio-frequency and ultrasonic waves to combat cellulite. This will apparently enable strong, independent women to find happiness in their own skin. How very empowering. Efforts however, were not made in total vain as Assome is donating 5 per cent of sales made this week to CATALYST, a charity which helps empower women in the workplace.

Interactive Brewing Day

Female emancipation and beer go hand in hand, surely? Sniggering aside, Temple Brew House have sought to honour IWD by hosting a day of interactive brewing. The free event invites those willing to get their hands dirty, to come along and involved in the brewing process. And for those who wish to maintain clean hands, the brew house encourages people to have a look around on the day and get involved in their competition to name the beer. Right on, sisters.

Girl Power Silent Disco

Nobody's Watching have organised a silent disco in order to mark IWD ‘the uplifting way’. The first half hour of the event will feature a Time-Machine Girl Power warm up, where party goers will learn to dance like Madonna, Beyonce and the Spice Girls.

For the following hour, guests will be invited to let loose and unlock their inner “disco diva” by choosing between two channels; 70s and 80s or 90s and Noughties. Whether dancing to Diana Ross or Destiny’s Child, the company has sought to create “an empowering, fun and comfortable experience for women to come together and dance their a---s off”.