This month (March 2021) is the 35th Women’s History Month.*
The first official Women’s History Month was in 1987 (and began being recognized nationally in 1995).
Before it became Women’s History Month, there were five years of Women’s History Week being the second week of March (from 1982 to 1986).
[Source for the above information:
And before either of those, March 8th has been International Women’s Day since 1977.
do we still need Women’s History Month in 2021?
If you’ve existed in any time or place where Women’s History Month has been recognized, you’ve probably heard this question:
“But when is Men’s History Month?”
And if you’ve heard that, you might have heard the common retort:
“Every month is Men’s History Month.”
(Similar to how “Every month is White History Month” is the response to Caucasian Americans asking why we have history months for other races.)
I admit that, when I was a child, Women’s History Month seemed to me a little like a celebration of women with the intent of placing women on a pedestal, almost as if we considered ourselves superior to men. It was a childish thought, probably the result of experiencing the privilege of living in a modern era where feminists of the past had already done a lot of work.
Looking back, I now realize another–almost subconscious–view of Women’s History Month that child-me held:
In addition to feeling like Women’s History Month was a little too feminist, I also felt like I knew that Women’s History was focused on in school for exactly one (1) month because, of course, there was not enough material to fill the rest of the school year. Women being ~involved~ at all in history was recent, obviously, because men did most of the history.
Women’s History Month looked to me like a period of time where we discuss the few things women have done in history, before going back to learning regular history.
Having several years of distance from the American public school experience has made me wonder why I assumed, without question, that history was men. I think it’s the nature of being surrounded by text books, some of them outdated, that attribute almost everything to men (especially European and American men), and either gloss over or leave out mentions of women’s involvement (not to mention how much more is left out about contributions from other cultures, even in “World History” class).
I didn’t notice the bias our academic material had.
It was just there.
The same way fish probably don’t notice water.
Naturally, because school is the place where we learn, I didn’t think school could possibly be leaving anything important out. Like many children, I trusted the system.
I know the science, art, and history textbooks I grew up with were at least better than what my grandparents learned from. Progress is always happening.
Hopefully, as the curriculum is continually updated with new findings, more diverse researchers and writers, and less erasure and bias, there may eventually be a time where special History Months become obsolete.
But as long as we’re still having to find, years after “completing” our education, articles with titles like
“Women in ______ History that you didn’t learn about in school!“,
Yes. One month of emphasis on under-taught history is reasonable.
Do we still need feminism in 2021?
Many 21st Century women struggle with the question:
“Am I a feminist?”
Because of so much disagreement about what a “feminist” does or should do, I’m not going to claim to have an answer to that question.
But I would like to share an interesting bit of reading material related to the subject:
A study by Katherine Remenyi:
*Note for clarification:
This history of the month refers to when the United States officially recognized Women’s History Month. I chose this as my frame of reference because I was born in, reside in, and have never been outside of, the United States.
To any international readers who may find this post: These dates may or may not be accurate, and I apologize if this does not reflect your experience.
However, I still wish all of you a happy Women’s History Month, and hope you can celebrate women wherever you live. ❤
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