by Dev Petrovic, Staff Writer

Every year on March 8 for International Women’s Day, social media platforms are flooded with variants of “go girl” posts, celebrating “strong, powerful, independent women.” While women have every right to celebrate the progression of their rights, why haven’t we gotten past this form of feminism? What about gender non-conforming (GNC) folks? What about the experiences of trans women, which are vastly different from those of cisgender women? It appears that this monumental day has not kept up with the development of modern feminism and, in turn, its message has become exclusionary. 

International Women’s Day is rooted in first and second-wave feminism — the first wave initially standing for working women’s rights, but then expanded to include other forms of female justice. The second-wave advocated for amending political and cultural inequalities, like gaining access to contraception. Since then, feminism has transformed into a multifaceted ideology, including movements such as #MeToo. Many of these movements advocate for gender-based rights through an intersectional lens, but this is not always the case. There are people out there who identify as “feminists” but preach transphobic views and voice hate-speech against sex workers. Women’s rights have come a long way, but gender inequality still manifests in violent and hateful forms — especially for trans and non-binary individuals, as well as sex workers. This is not something to celebrate.

The official website for International Women’s Day itself only mentions the day’s importance as a celebration of “women’s achievements,” and promotes “female-focused” charities. Reading this as someone who does not identify as a woman (but is woman-passing) is a huge slap in the face. Seeing this sort of language on any day automatically makes me feel left out and erased from the conversation. But seeing this on the most prominent and official source for International Women’s Day — a website that intends to uplift those marginalized — is entirely disappointing. As if non-binary people don’t experience gender inequality like women do? That’s bullshit.

I may be non-binary, but I am still treated and viewed as a woman in many ways. Because of this, I experience the same issues that many women do, but on top of that, my identity is also constantly forgotten. I feel that in any conversation that centres on women’s issues, the mention of trans or non-binary people does not seem to make the cut. There’s no reason as to why International Women’s Day, a day that symbolizes progression and equality, can’t be inclusive of different identities. It is also vital to mention that by including other identities, those of cis women are not erased. 

Most importantly, it does not make sense to only celebrate the progression of women’s rights while there are still folks who are systematically discriminated against, and are fighting for their gender to be legally recognized. If there’s going to be a day that symbolizes the fight for gender equality, it is counterintuitive for this celebration to be exclusionary. Besides, including all identities does not mean that we can’t celebrate the past and present activist work that is being done by women and people of all genders. 

For starters, let’s call it a day not solely for cisgender women. Feminism has come so far in its inclusion of various genders. Maintaining gender binaries for the sake of uplifting one gender is a major step in the opposite direction.

I understand that progression within these formalities takes time, but non-binary and GNC people alike deserve to be represented and seen. It is incredibly invalidating to be erased from important international dates, while cis women get to freely write #girlpower on their Instagram stories. It’s about time that we step away from being a second-thought for performative feminism, and that we are finally included and acknowledged in the fight for greater gender rights. We are important and we exist.