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Berlin: The Emancipated City and its New Holiday

Women’s rights have always been something fought for by left-wingers rather than conservatives. In that sense it is sort of logical that a city state ruled by a three-way left-wing coalition, Berlin, decided to adopt International Women’s Day as a holiday.

It was Clara Zetkin, a German socialist and feminist, who spoke about the idea of establishing an “international women’s day” at the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference, which took place in Copenhagen in the summer of 1910. The original idea came from the United States of America, where socialist women had already decided to have such a day.

Back then it was about women’s suffrage. Today, it depends. In Germany, feminists, both female and male ones, still criticize the fact that in many companies women earn less than men for the same work. And they do have a point.

Also the double or even triple burden many women carry continues to be a relevant subject. Men work. Then they come home and watch Netflix. Many women, on the other hand, come home from work, in order to keep on working. They deal with the kids and the household before they watch Netflix for five minutes while falling asleep after a tiring day. A far busier one that their husbands had.

While these are the main subjects discussed when it comes to women’s rights, which are also Human Rights, in Europe, International Women’s Day is also about solidarity with women in other parts of the world, where they have far less rights, if any, or where the injustice is far more grave. Violence against women, for instance in India and parts of Africa, is another aspect.

Berlin was very quick to decide to adopt International Women’s Day on March 8th as an official holiday. According to the ‘Tagesspiegel’ daily, neither the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, nor Senators will actually take part in any official events on that new holiday, since there are none. But they will for sure think of women’s rights and maybe release statements.

As recently as on January 24th, 2019, the Berlin House of Representatives approved the official holiday, meaning there was not that much time to organize anything big.

Four guided tours about the history of the struggle for women’s rights will take place at the German Historic Museum in Berlin on Friday. And at Alexanderplatz, a demonstration for women’s rights is scheduled for 2 p.m. that same day.

Berliners might use the holiday for a trip, since it falls on a Friday and therefore prolongs the weekend. They might watch some more Netflix (yes, after dealing with lunch, dinner and activities for the children, the laundry, the ironing and the dirty dishes) or they might visit the big tourism trade fair ITB (see several articles on the fair, right here on The Berlin Spectator).

As a matter of fact, adopting this new holiday was not entirely about women or the injustice they are facing, but also about having a new holiday. Other federal states in Germany, especially in the more religious south of the country, have far more holidays. Bavaria has 13 while Berlin had 9 before it adopted the new one.

On top of that, some provinces in northern Germany had just adopted a holiday dedicated to Martin Luther and the Reformation. The Churches in Berlin wanted the same for their city. Some Berlin politicians preferred a day which would have commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall, others would have chosen May 8th because of the liberation of fascism in Europe. Now it is International Women’s Day after all.

Some of the members of the Berlin House of Representatives who voted for the holiday seem very determined. For the Greens, the chairladies of their parliamentary group, Antje Kapek and Silke Gebel, said that as long as equality had not been reached, “we will flight, instead of just celebrating”.