International Women’s Day: Give Us Bread, But Give Us Roses, Too!

March 8th is International Women’s Day. This is a day to commemorate the working women who have struggled and fought to better their conditions.

Today in the United States, the attacks on abortion and reproductive rights continue. The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that all “unborn children are ‘children’” and that an embryo in a petri dish is equivalent to a child. This is ridiculous! Fertility clinics in Alabama are pausing all operations as they navigate this new attack.

Meanwhile, costs of childcare continue to go up and waitlists can be years-long. The cost of childcare and eldercare all falls disproportionately on women, both the unpaid work that falls on us, as well as the low-pay, understaffed conditions in these fields.

This is in line with the trajectory the right has been carrying out for decades. They have every intention of continuing attacks on birth control, on stem cell research, even on the right to divorce! The anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and hate speech is generated by the same wealthy elites with billions of dollars at their disposal. These attacks are part of the long strategy to impose reactionary gender norms and force women to continue to bear the brunt of unpaid and underpaid domestic work.

This election season the Democrats have lots to say about reproductive rights. They would like us to forget that they are the party that fired the first shot by passing the Hyde Amendment, blocking the use of federal insurance for abortion access. Neither party is a force we can rely on to better the conditions of women.

Around the world one woman is killed every 11 minutes by someone in their own family. One in every three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence increases with economic instability and unemployment. As climate disruption impacts more people, the stress caused will turn into more intimate partner violence. Global conflicts and wars are also on the rise. This directly impacts women as they bear the burden of caring for family and feeding children. This is all the more difficult in conflict zones which have increased sexual violence. Today, the genocide in Gaza is overwhelmingly killing women and children. In Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the systemic violence against women is rising.

Since the start of social classes and private property, the oppression of women has been essential to these exploitative societies. But women have often found ways to organize themselves and fight back.

One example is the history of International Women’s Day (IWD). The first International Women’s Day was called for during the International Socialist Women’s Conference in 1910. On the first IWD in 1911, over one million people joined demonstrations demanding a woman’s right to vote and to hold public office, as well as for protection against gender discrimination in employment. In 1914, IWD demonstrations included slogans against World War I.

On International Women’s Day in 1917, women textile workers in Petrograd, Russia called for a demonstration for “Bread and Peace.” which led to the Russian Revolution, when working people took power. The slogan “Give us Bread and Roses” has been associated with women workers’ struggles, and especially with International Women’s Day. The slogan was first used in the successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912, when women textile workers demanded “Bread” – an improvement in their pay and working conditions, but “Roses, too” – signifying also having time to enjoy rest, art, culture, and relaxing time with family and friends.

When we unite our forces as working women, we have the ability to change even the most dire circumstances, end the rule of kings, and stop wars. When we organize to overthrow capitalism and put an end to the rule of the billionaires, we will be able to create a society addressing the needs of working people around the world, based on equality and collaboration. Then we can all have bread — and roses, too!