Let’s talk Women’s History Month. Starting out in the early 1980’s with Congress requesting that the President declare just one week during March to observe Women’s History, eventually all of March was proclaimed by Congress and the President as Women’s History Month. On March 7, 1982, the inaugural Women’s History Week, President Reagan stated,
“American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways… As leaders in public affairs, American women not only worked to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity but also were principal advocates in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health reform, industrial labor and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement.” Women of all kinds have always worked towards progress, have always been forces of change, and have always been integral in this nation’s, as well as global history.”
Similarly to the often hostile questioning, “Why is there a Black History Month but no White History Month,” “Why is there a Gay Pride March but no Straight Pride March,” there’s usually someone also asking, “Why should we have a Women’s History Month when there’s no Men’s History Month?” The answer is the default for most facets of society are set to cis, white, heterosexual male. Having months, marches, parades, days, exhibits, etc. highlighting those groups that have been marginalized throughout history are important to help change the default, and hopefully remove a default altogether. Bringing stories of women to the forefront will help normalize them and remove them from the realm of “the other.” Education is extremely important, and teaching people of all ages, but children especially, the whole of history is vital in representing truth and strengthening equality.
Another common and often hostile reaction to Women’s History Month is in response to the inclusion of transgender women in the celebrations and recognition during the month. To this I say simply, fuck off. All women have been marginalized, all women’s voices have been repressed, all women have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment, whether subtle or overt, at some point in their lives. Trans women are women period. They have suffered in the same ways as all women, and in vastly different ways as well. To continue the horrific trend of exclusion, of othering, of discrimination is abhorrent. Trans women have contributed to and strengthened our society throughout history, and like all women, they are still struggling for recognition and respect. The current administration is doubling down on its attacks on transgender rights and the bodily autonomy of all women. Instead of adding to the divisiveness, intolerance, discrimination, and hate, we should be learning from each other, listening to all voices, representing all lived experiences, and moving towards equality. When people question whether trans women are “real” women or whether they belong in a Women’s March or to be celebrated during Women’s History Month, they are fueling the attacks on these women. They are supporting the laws that prevent these women from entering bathrooms, from being accepted in domestic violence shelters, or adopting children. They are complacent in the epidemic of murder of trans-women throughout the United States and its territories. No one should be complacent in the face of bigoted opinions, even when the behaviors do not seem extreme. Even small acts of discrimination add to the atmosphere of unmitigated hate.
This month and beyond, celebrate all women who have been cast out of history. Teach and learn about a broad range of experiences and all histories. This month we lift up the likes of Lucy Hicks Anderson who in 1945 proclaimed, “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” and “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman,” and Mary Jones, a sex worker of color in the mid-1800s who refused to give up her identity in the face of arrest, insults, and discrimination, and Sylvia Rivera who was bullied as a child, kicked out of her home, and still went on to co-found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group dedicated to providing housing and support for homeless queer youth and sex workers in New York City in the late 1960s; and countless others who in the face of discrimination, threats, violence, and hostility went on to create, advance, help others, and promote compassion, equality, and education.
Forbes Magazine recently had an article with the results of a United Nations analysis that indicated 90% of people around the globe have biases against women. Many think human society has made great strides towards gender equality, but when 90% of the world continues to hold irrational and insidious prejudices against women, there is little to celebrate. Use this month to reflect on your own internal biases against women. Use this month to critically think about media, advertising, and other ways women are used and represented commercially. Use this month to start conversations about transgender women and women of different backgrounds and cultures. Think about white feminism and white female privilege. Think about men and how sexism and the devaluing of the feminine affects them. Reach out to our male allies and feminists of all genders. Remember Women’s History Month is not just about white, cis-gender women. Let’s celebrate the feminine in everyone, lift up ALL women, show gratitude to our feminist allies, but also remember that we still have a lot of work to do. Let’s also take every opportunity to teach compassion, to listen to all voices, make space for all lived experiences, and forge a community of respect, freedom, and kindness truly for all.
Hail Lilith! Hail Satan! Happy Women’s History Month.