How International Women's Day has changed in 111 years

Sex strikes, sweary T-shirts and vegan cakes with VERY intimate decorations: How International Women’s Day has changed in 111 years

  • Marchers will take to the streets of London for International Women’s Day today 
  • Men and women encouraged to wear red during walk to Parliament Square
  • Broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and campaigner Bianca Jagger will be speakers
  • Vulva-shape cupcakes and ‘f*** the patriarchy’ T-shirts will be available 

In 1909, a street protest by thousands of striking US textile workers inspired International Women’s Day. Today, the struggle for equality will be marked in the UK by vulva-shaped cupcakes and celebrity campaigners.

And while current organisers may have become more creative in celebrating women and the fight for gender equality, the origins of the movement will be echoed by a traditional mass protest in Central London today.

Men and women will be encouraged to wear red as they march to Parliament Square to highlight how ‘women’s work keeps everyday life going’. Broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and campaigner Bianca Jagger will be speakers.

Exotic dancers perform in Piccadilly Circus in central London during a demonstration against discrimination of sex workers held on International Women’s Day

Similar events are expected to draw thousands in Bristol, Cambridge and Edinburgh, with smaller celebrations across the country.

Some of the more light-hearted side draws in London include ‘vulvalicious cupcake decorating’, a tongue-in-cheek cookery class that teaches women how to decorate vegan cupcakes to look like a vulva.

Marchers can even buy ‘F*** the Patriarchy’ T-shirts for £18.

A T-shirt with a vulgar slogan which marchers can buy for £18

A guide to the £20 event in East London’s trendy Brick Lane says: ‘We can’t think of a better way of celebrating International Women’s Day than decorating vegan cupcakes to look just like splendid vulvae!’

In Glasgow, visitors are encouraged to pay £19 to immerse themselves in Linder Sterling’s avant-garde feminist exhibition Bower Of Bliss, commissioned by the city’s Women’s Library.

In London, a host of events and parties will be led by the March4Women event, hosted by Women’s Equality party founder Toksvig. Singer Emeli Sandé, 1917 film actor George MacKay and Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Suffragettes founder Emmeline Pankhurst, will appear at the rally.

Elsewhere, campaigners are staging a sex work strike across Europe, accompanied by a demonstration in London’s Soho Square, calling for prostitution to be decriminalised.

Demonstration on International Women’s Day, 1911

A march in Edinburgh will also include calls for a ‘consumption strike’ aimed at encouraging people to cut their spending to what is ‘strictly necessary for their survival and activism’. It will be accompanied by a boycott of companies that use sexist publicity.

Research by Nottingham University Business School shows that only 51 per cent of women feel comfortable negotiating higher pay, compared to 74 per cent of men.

Shockingly, the research also found that only 62 per cent of women workers feel they can state their value to their employer, in contrast with 82 per cent of men.


  • Just 220 out of 650 seats in Parliament are held by women.
  • An estimated 303,000 women worldwide die in childbirth or during pregnancy each year.
  • On average, women earn 24 per cent less than men, the UN found. Equality will not be until 2059.
  • One woman in three is a victim of sexual or physical violence.
  • Only 48 women have been awarded Nobel Prizes – 822 men.
  • Sex-selective abortions have led to 23 million fewer girls being born, mainly in China and India.
  • One woman in four alive today was a child bride.
  • Female genital mutilation is thought to affect 137,000 women and girls in the UK. 
  •  Ninety per cent of the world’s population hold some prejudice against women, a UN study found last week.


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