Today is International Women's Day and I would like to tell the women who are around me and affect me "Happy Women's Day" as a gesture of appreciation of what they doing, they can be from my family or work or a friend or an internet friend. I do this because I believe that they are as strong as any men and are capable of a lot more than many people think.

However the issue is that some people even find it to be a sexist day and I do find few of the women's day circulating messages sexist themselves and always take care of what I send. Even there are many popular social media hashtags such as #UncelebrateWomensDay and #CelebrateWomenEveryday and view this one-day celebration as more harming than good.

So I want to know how can I tell women "Happy Women's Day" on Women's Day without hurting women who don't even like the idea of this day?

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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 11:12

9 Answers 9


Not all people (not even all women) know what is the intended purpose of celebrating International Women Day. IWD is not a "thanks women for being there" day. International Women Day is the civic holiday that remembers the violence, inequalities and sexism suffered by women, and celebrates the civil right acquired so far by women.

Wish the women around you with this meaning in mind. If they tell you that they don't like it for some reason, you can simply say:

Oh, I just find it {nice|awesome|interesting|however you find it} that there is a day to raise awareness of gender inequalities around the world. I didn't mean to offend you, I'm sorry that I did.

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    Solid answer and I upvote! Please also consider undeleting and developing your answer on the recent Q about my sister's boss, because "keep it professional" is the way to go at the workplace. You might find a neutral substitute for "play dumb" to avoid any knee-jerk downvotes. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 14:39
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    "The intended purpose" - Although IWD has been celebrated in many countries and at many times, you write as though there is a single purpose and way of celebrating it. That isn't the case (see avazula's answer and comments) -- for example, the way it was celebrated in the former Soviet Union in 1996 was very different from what you describe. What sources are you referring to?
    – LarsH
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 15:26
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    @LarsH Wikipedia in English, Spanish, Italian, French and German all make reference to this meaning. English wiki defines its significance as "Civil awareness day - Women and girls day - Anti-sexism day - Anti-Discrimination Day". For the UN, March the 8th is the "United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace". Whatever nuance you decide to celebrate it, my point is that it's not about thanking women for being there, bu about women's rights. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 15:56
  • Thanks for citing your sources. However, the fact that IWD has a certain theme (advocating women's rights) does not imply that it doesn't have other themes (e.g. celebrating women's achievements - the primary meaning according to internationalwomensday.com; Int'l Peace - UN; thanking women - theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/06/…; inspiring women; ...). In the FSU, and apparently elsewhere, thanking women for their contributions is a widespread practice on IWD. The "not all people know" can point both ways.
    – LarsH
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 16:33
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    @LarsH I feel like we're mostly saying the same thing. IWD is a civil awareness day that can be obviously remembered in many ways. However, I find that it's often trivialized and cleaned up from its meaning of civic commitment. Thanking your female programming teacher for being a good teacher is nice, acknowledged that she succeeded in it despite a sexist environment is better. (I'm not implying that programmers are sexist by default, it's just an example.) Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 17:00

Is it just in France that it's not the International Women's Day but rather International Women Rights' Day ? I think it makes quite a difference & excludes the opportunity of wishing anything to anyone!

Anyway, I agree with Edgar & stand for the choice of thanking/politely complimenting her for whatever you want to tell her. I was studying in Hungary last year & most of my schoolmates / teachers wished me a good IWD (maybe it's because I was studying electronics & informatics, which seems to be an uncommon thing for women there).

I really didn't like it & felt being considered differently than my male schoolmates.

This is obviously my feeling, but long story short, I'd recommend you not to place your message in any other frame than pure & uninterested gratitude. Which is a very nice thing to do to people!

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    Here in the US, at least, it is called International Women's Day. I quite like the French name, though, and I think I'll use it now.
    – anon
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 2:27
  • in Poland it's just Women's Day, usually not even International
    – Antek
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 9:40
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    In Danish, it is usually Kvindernes internationale kampdag which means Women's International Day of Fight or maybe Women's International Day of Struggle. It emphasizes the fight/struggle women have done and will need to do, to obtain equal rights. (Labor Day, May 1, is similarly named Workers' International Day of Fight/Struggle.) Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 8:44

I suggest you contact the women you like to thank and just thank them for whatever you want to thank them.

Don't mention Women's Day.

Some women will know it's Women's Day and they will appreciate it. And some women may not know about Women's Day or don't care about that day. But if you contact them or talk to them and they understand that you really care about them then they will appreciate what you do.

Just be sure you know why you want to contact them and say thank you so that they don't just think you do it only because you somehow think you should do this on Women's day.


What is wrong with simply wishing someone a happy women's day?

Don't make a big deal out of it and don't waste your time with people who do. If someone seriously attacks you for a simple wish like that, shrug and walk away. Some people you just can't satisfy, no matter what.

If you know that a particular woman doesn't like the idea of women's day, simply don't congratulate her, and that's it. If you think so, you could be wrong. Wish them a happy women's day and be about your business. Even if they don't like the celebration, all you did was wish them a happy day, what is wrong with that?


rather than make a big deal out of mentioning it, why don't you do something to demonstrate that you acknowledge women's achievements and support them in being treated equally? E.g. there are a couple of great Facebook pages like "A mighty girl" or "I f*****g love science" which tell cool stories about women in science or in other fields, where their achievements are often not known about e.g. Celia Payne-Gaposchkin, who discovered what the sun was made of. Why not find something inspiring and share the story with your friend.

As a feminist, I can tell you that men sparing the time and imagination to learn about what is happening for women, and why equality or lack of, is still a big issue is much more meaningful than any acknowledgement of IWD. Taking the time to show by actions and not just warm words, is worth more than anything, eg supporting female colleagues to be heard in meetings, making sure they are getting credit where it is due, listening when the women in your life tell you about stuff that gets to them, and empathising with their experiences.

Thank you for caring enough to ask this question, and I hope my tips lead you to enjoy discovering women who did amazing things who you will never have heard of or seen a statue of!


I think what they refer to with the posts regarding "sexism" in this case is that usually women get congratulated on on IWD(International Women's day), which is sort of insensitive. Congratulating someone on being born into a sex, which gets marginalised a lot, on a day for lifting these issues that we've had and continue having is not proper.

However, saying "Happy International Women's day" and recognizing the day is not at all sexist or marginalising(in my eyes).

I also agree with other posters saying that actions speak louder than words. Doing something to show appreciation and respect for the women around you is probably the better way to go.


tl;dr- Women's Day makes sense in some cultural contexts but not others. When appropriate, try to frame it as a celebration of societal progress. Be sure to avoid white knight syndrome and other forms of inadvertent sexism.

If you have a friend who's really struggling with money and worried about where their next meal'll come from, it can be kind to offer them some money. But if you have a friend who would otherwise seem to be doing well, just randomly offering them a bit of money to buy food could come off as rather awkward, if not outright offensive.

This issue is similar. If you know someone who's genuinely insecure about being a woman, then wishing them a Happy Women's Day or simply telling them about it can be an act of kindness. The more insecure they's feeling, the more appropriate a well-delivered comment could be.

But if a woman feels that she's an empowered, respected individual, then offering her a reminder that she's

stringer then men and capable of way lot then any men can think

will sound weird, like offering a fiscally stable friend money. If this is hard to imagine, consider someone telling you that it's Men's Day and that they appreciate you for being a man; weird, right?

The important thing would seem to be ensuring that you're delivering these comments to people who'll appreciate them. This is, you probably shouldn't just randomly message every woman you know; that'd probably come off as weird overall. Instead, if you have a female friend who you know feels unappreciated because she's a woman, then you might mention the holiday to her in conversation, telling her that you're happy to see the public gesture.

And to warn ya, it sounds like you might have a touch of White Knight Syndrome. You'll probably want to reflect on that a bit before messaging anyone.

Finally, if/when you do message someone, it's probably best to point out Woman's Day as a societal showing of respect/equality, rather than as a personal gesture on your part. If you have a bit of White Knight Syndrome, you may be hoping to score some personal points today, but if you really care about folks, that's probably not the best idea. If a woman's feeling insecure, ideally she'd feel appreciated by society, not just by you personally.


  • Consider who'll appreciate a Happy Women's Day rather than just saying it to everyone.

  • The holiday's about society appreciating women, not you. Completely remove yourself from the picture, and don't try to use today as a chance to score points.

  • Be careful to avoid accidentally implying anything bad about women, even implicitly through your actions.

  • You may want to reflect on your own views of women a bit, as the original wording of the question sounded a bit off.

RE: Cultural notes

Just thinking about it a bit, the culture that you're from would seem relevant.

In the part of the world where I'm from, there's simply nothing wrong with being a woman. Telling a woman that she's appreciated for being a woman would pretty much be the same as telling a man that he's appreciated for being a man; this is, it'd seem weird and a touch sexist.

But, I appreciate that cultures vary significantly around the world. And, in some parts of the world, women are subtly marginalized; in other parts of the world, women are blatantly marginalized. So, Women's Day would seem to make a lot more sense elsewhere.

So, I suppose that a correct handling of this issue would vary significantly by culture.

RE: Framing Women's Day

In the above answer, I'd suggested that words of encouragement would be appropriately delivered to those who're feeling insecure. This framing seems like an objective way to consider the situation, but it's not the right framing for external discussion.

When trying to actually make people feel better, it'd seem more effective to frame Women's Day as a cultural celebration that everyone's doing. I guess that calling it "International Women's Day" was actually clever, in that it helps to reinforce this framing. This framing makes it sound more like something everyone's doing, rather than a specific showing of support, taking that awkwardness out.


I carefully racked my brain how to acknowledge a woman on "Women's day" and disregard them more the other 354 days.

I came to the conclusion that it is not the purpose of this (or other) day(s) to treat people differently on different days, but a simple reminder to make issues public, remember things of the past and think over the own behavior. Nothing more, nothing less.

So if you know a woman that cares about the day and would be pleased that it is acknowledged, fire away with "Happy Woman's day". Otherwise don't treat women differently. Don't mention this day if you are unsure that the people are aware/interested in it.


It's not a Hallmark Holiday, so don't treat it as one.

Wishing people Happy Valentine's Day is bad enough. Let's leave this one alone too.

I spent yesterday on a movie set which, not extraordinarily, had both women & men on it. The Director was a woman, as was the 1st AD.

Neither of them looked in the slightest

  • Amazed by the fact they were in charge
  • Apologetic for being in charge
  • Triumphant about being in charge
  • Phased by the fact they were in charge

Amongst the other people working that day in that environment were some men.

  • Didn't look upset/disappointed/amazed/impressed about it
  • Didn't feel the need for hearty congratulations over the fact a woman was in charge
  • Really seem to think there was anything special about it.


  • Everybody got on & did their job & we got a good day's work done.

International Women's Day is a mark of respect for past grievances & a reminder that we need to address the balance overall to be more equal - a meritocracy not a glass ceiling.
It is not something to send hallmark cards for, or to play the 'I wish you a happy gender day' game.

It is not the teensy's equivalent of the 1970's "I have some friends who are black/Jewish/gay"
It sounds just as ridiculous to say "I have some friends who are women".

So, after some comments, let me add...
Don't make a big deal out of it. Don't wave it like a flag in front of people. It's not your flag to wave.

As a male, if it crops up in conversation, acknowledge it, make sure your message is clear that you think it is a 'good thing', but don't volunteer that you in any way 'support it' or 'wish it' to someone. That is patronising & implies you think women 'should feel grateful for being given the privilege'.

It's going to be almost impossible to say anything that wouldn't be taken the wrong way; if you tread carefully or stomp through like a bull, you will look a fool, a boor or a misogynist.

It's a day to let someone else speak, not you.

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    I think that the main concern I have with your answer is that it doesn't really answer the question. You say that it shouldn't be treated like a Hallmark holiday, which I think is a fine start... but you don't say what to do instead. The OP seems to want to recognize the day in honor of the women around him (and you seem to recognize that the day is worthy of honoring) ... if not by saying "Happy IWD", then how?
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 19:03
  • @Catija - OK, fair point... maybe by 'not making a huge deal of it'. Acknowledge it, but don't 'wish' it to people like it's a holiday with cards, chocolates & flowers. The same way you wouldn't single out black people to wish a 'happy Martin Luther King day' to. It's just blindly tactless & inappropriate.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 20:08
  • @Catija He does say what to do instead "don't make a huge deal out of it", or in other words, "don't do anything".
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 4:14

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