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International Women’s Day Posted by on Mar 8, 2021 in Culture, Events, History, Vocabulary

Image by Markéta Machová from Pixabay

March 08 is International Women’s Day. In Vietnamese, it is called Ngày Quốc Tế Phụ Nữ and it is celebrated. Generally speaking, it is a global day to celebrate the achievements of women, as well as a day to mark the revolution of women striking for equality in all aspects of life. Individually, for the Vietnamese, or at least to me, its meaning has been diluted to be just another Valentine’s Day, a costly day for the men financially. So, what does this day actually mean? It’s different for men and women.

For women, it is a day to expect to receive cards, flowers, gifts, compliments, and well wishes from the men in her life. For men, it is costly and a hassle. A man must buy gifts for his girlfriend if single, for his wife if married, for his mother and mother-in-law, for his female boss, co-workers, etc. Even for students, they may feel pressure to buy gifts for their female teachers, too. To me, it has become a commercialize day in Vietnam. It is a good business occasion for the flower shops, gift shops, and restaurants. People are too busy buying and receiving gifts and fail to demonstrate on behalf of victims of domestic violence, the sex trade, etc.

Vietnam is a patriarchal country, but unlike others in Asia, discrimination against women has not been a major problem that prevents women from exceling alongside men. On the contrary, Vietnamese women have played an important role in the nation, and left an indelible legacy on Vietnamese society. Some even argue that early Vietnamese society was a matriarchal society. There are many well-known female figures in Vietnamese history, especially in warfare and politics. It is not surprising to hear that Vietnam is one of the countries in the world that has a high percentage of female representatives in legislative government.

March 8 was also chosen as an anniversary of the Trưng sisters’ upraising day. The Trưng sisters (? – 43 C.E.) are considered the first female Vietnamese national heroes. They fought against Chinese domination of Vietnam. Between 40-43 CE, Hai Bà Trưng (the Trưng sisters) successfully won independence for Vietnam and established an autonomous state. The sisters were crowned as queens and reigned until they were defeated by a Chinese general.

If you talk about all the well-known female figures in Vietnamese history, the list is pretty long. However, the most well known that appear in school text books include:

  • Hai Bà Trưng (the Trưng sisters): The first queens in Vietnamese history.
  • Triệu Thị Trinh, or Lady Trieu: A fierce woman warrior in the 3rd century C.E. who fought against the Chinese state of Eastern Wu.
  • Bùi Thị Xuân: Female general during the Tây Sơn Rebellion in the 19th century.

Since International Women’s Day in Vietnam is an occasion for men to express their gratitude, appreciation, and thankfulness to the ladies, you may wonder what kind of gifts people would usually buy. Here are some suggestions of what to buy for the lady in your life.

  • Hoa (flower)
  • Quần áo (clothes)
  • Đồ trang sức (jewelry)
  • Mỹ phẩm (cosmetics)
  • Nước hoa (perfume)
  • Gấu bông (stuffed animal dolls)
  • Đồ lưu niệm (souvenirs)

Reflecting on what I have been able to accomplish in my working career while mostly surrounded by men, I feel that I always had to work harder to prove myself to everyone. I am sure not alone. The recent “Me Too” Movement has taught us that women around the world are still struggling to be treated fairly as equal partners, and shouldn’t be treated as objects, or lesser human beings.

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Image by Kandle Dart

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