Thursday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Some will observe the day by attending seminars on women’s health, making donations to to causes that aid and empower women around the world or celebrating the accomplishments of notable women from the past and present, such as Eleanor Roosevelt or Google executive Marissa Mayer.
Others might be celebrating by applying red lipstick, taking an Instagram photo and submitting it to the Tumblr campaign Rock the Lips.
International Women’s Day was inaugurated in 1910, when a German woman named Clara Zetkin proposed that every country devote a day to the needs and political demands of women — which, in those days, included the working rights and the right to vote. Today, the day raises awareness of gender inequality issues and reminds us of what women have achieved since the first International Women’s Day more than 100 years ago. Rock the Lips, a social media effort launched by marketing agency AKQA, is one of many events this year to mark the annual commemoration.
“Rock the Lips is an awareness effort,” said Kristina Slade, creative director of AKQA, in an e-mail. “It's a way to spread knowledge that there even IS an International Women's Day, and to support the idea. We felt that a ‘celebrational’ angle would appeal to an untapped segment of women.”
Though Rock the Lips appears to be similar to a “post your bra color” Facebook status trend that went viral in January 2010 and was eventually used by some to raise awareness of breast cancer, there are differences. The bra color campaign was not organized and was linked to the cause after some women listed their “bra color” in memory of those who died of the disease. The trend drew critics who said the postings should be linked to a breast cancer awareness site.
Rock the Lips does not link to the International Women’s Day site nor offer details on the day’s themes and events for this year. Women who participate in Rock the Lips might not be aware of the day’s role in bringing important attention to issues such as gender inequality, education and health care, violence against women and income disparity.
International Women’s Day comes at a particularly telling time in the United States this year, as politics and women’s concerns about reproductive health have collided in the Virginia statehouse, on the campaign trail and among media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh, who caused outrage with his remarks disparaging Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, prompting advertisers to flee his talk show.
Without more explanation and information about what the day means, people who pose for an Instagram and post their photos on the Rock the Lips site may never learn the substance of the women’s issues being raised.
Slade said in her e-mail that AKQA would be inviting participants in Rock the Lips to donate to their Kiva team, a micro-loan organization. There is no mention of Kiva early Wednesday on the blog or on the Rock the Lips Facebook page, where postings described “power pouts,” recommended lipstick shades and linked to articles about courageous women.
Slade also said that she’s looking for a cosmetics brand partner to “create a special pro-lady red lipstick and increase our efforts at generating awareness and celebration in the future.”
So, on March 8, if you post on Rock the Lips, keep in mind that the day is about much more than a pretty pout.
How do you plan to recognize International Women’s Day?