I grew up with this holiday -- it was a big deal; there were national celebrations with televised specials; men and children all over the country would be toting flowers for the women in their lives -- mothers, wives, girlfriends, friends, coworkers, teachers. To me it was less a political thing than a "women are awesome" kind of thing, and I couldn't wait until I was old enough to be considered a woman. To this day I get a tiny internal "yay" from being congratulated by people of similar extraction (congratulations from non-Soviet/East Bloc types do little -- it's a shared history thing, not a me thing).
There were some ironies inherent in the cultural atmosphere around the holiday that I did not appreciate as a kid. Like the fact that men (and children of all sexes) would routinely take over household chores for the day. The implication that household chores were rightly and naturally women's work hadn't begun to strike me as ridiculous until I was much, much older. Even now I catch myself feeling responsible to clean up a mess when I see one because I was raised to believe it was in my nature as a woman to do so.
These wide and life-affirming celebrations occurred in a culture where it is to this day acceptable in mass media to refer to women as the weak sex and to men as the strong sex (Russian uses the positive gradable adjectives rather than the comparatives of English, but the message is pretty much the same). I say it's acceptable because I follow Russian media pretty much daily, and instances of this kind of language are typically not challenged at all; I'm not sure what the official stance is on sexist language. Quite frankly I'm not too keen to research it because it'll probably just depress me. This is despite the fact that the official party line during the Soviet regime was that women and men are political and social equals (plus, women's reproductive rights have been respected and protected since 1955, and women enjoy some of the best maternity leave arrangements in the world).
In more recent years, I found new ironies in the holiday. March 8th was originally meant for, and has historically included, cis-gendered women only, with trans women being at best an afterthought by select event organisers in recent years, and at worst excluded purely on the basis of their primary sexual characteristics. There is nothing in the spirit of the holiday to recognise women regardless of sexual orientation, and the way these celebrations typically go in my experience, it's as grossly heteronormative as Valentine's Day.
And so I end up thinking that today is really a day when cis women are compared to cis men, just as we are every other day, on the value of our humanity, our fitness to occupy leading roles in society, our ability to influence world affairs. Only on this day, it's extra impolite to tell us we're anything short of awesome in all respects.
The progress made by women towards equality and opportunities cannot be denied, but I confess I find it ridiculous that a hundred years later, gender equality is still a matter of struggle for far too many women, and that some governments in this world will open fire on any woman so much as asking for equal billing, let alone demanding it.
It's ridiculous that rape culture is a real thing rather than a theoretical thing you read about, with horror, in history books.
It's ridiculous that US women are still earning at most 80% of what men earn in the same positions and that most US women of colour earn at most half that, on average.
It's ridiculous that so many people seem to think that now that equality's been selectively legislated in a few places, the fight is over and women who don't think it's enough are just greedy, shrill bitches who need to be put in their place.
It's ridiculous that within the movement for women's equality, some are more interested in convincing others theirs is the True Path of Feminism and Rightness than in the actual, you know, movement.
It's ridiculous that some geniuses decided this is a great day to launch DDoS attacks on the International Women's Day website. Which, you know, pretty typical.
Basically, there are always going to be assholes around who think women's social, political, and economic achievements are not worth celebrating or recognising on any day of the year. I personally think the above-listed problems would be solved much more easily if all said assholes were taken out back and shot, but I suppose that's not very nurturing, positive, or life-affirming of me.
So here's to a little fewer of said assholes every year from now on, by whatever method you find most acceptable. I will not be here in another 100 years, but I hope things will be much better then.