Women’s History Month
March IS women’s history month. Internationally, the whole of March that is. It’s indicative of the state of the state of gender issues, and the state of inequalities still very much in existence, that in these so called by some post feminist times, we still have a month designated to be “women’s history month” If we wanted to be pedantic, we’d have most likely declared march to be women’s herstory month. But I’m not gonna start splitting hairs here. We are telling her story in march, that is how it is. Well, to be exact, we’re telling her story all year round, we’re just making telling her story during the month of march that bit more prominent.
In looking at the bigger historical picture, one of the questions that springs to mind, is why exactly do the men take centre stage in the history books? bloody obvious really, centre stage is given to those who had the opportunities to achieve in life a certain level of achievement and attainment as measured to be worthy of being written up and remembered by the patriarchal powers that be. For a woman’s achievements to be recognised on those terms, she most likely had to work thrice as hard, for thrice as long, for a fraction of the recognition. The sums don’t even need doing. And that’s assuming she’s doing something the on the whole guys who wrote the history books thought worthy to take note of.
With all of that in mind, for me women’s history month is an opportunity to think outside the box so to speak. What do we see as important enough a part of history to pass down to young people as part of their education? First answer that springs to my mind, is the stories about what’s made this world the way it is. To me, endless stories of monarchs, the tales of a crown being passed from father to son, with the odd aberration to this rhythm, only occurring when no son is born into the royal household, making it then so that the first born daughter gets to wear the snazzy head gear and play, isn’t the story that deserves the central stage it’s given. Nor is what’s important endless stories of endless generals and sergeant majors etc, in military roles fighting endless bloody battles, with young men who too had little other opportunities in life and so ended up joining the ranks of the war mongers, only to be used as cannon fodder for someone else’s battle. Though learning the history of the underlying political issues that created the stage for said conflicts is important. Because only by learning these facts, and learning from these facts, can we hope to work to avoid more bloody conflicts. It’s imperative to understand the history of what made war, so we can learn how to keep the peace for future generations.
But my wish list for what we look at during women’s history month is as this: To look at the hidden histories, to look back over your families matrilineal line. To encourage tracing back families via the mother, to the grandmother, to the great mother, and to find and record these women’s stories. Each human life is important. These are the women who birthed and nurtured you, and your mother and her mother before her, and so on back through your family tree. As a society, we give women who are mothering such low status. That can change for starters. When we treat birthing women and mothers with the respect they/we deserve, we’ll be heading in the right direction. Flowing forwards and following on from that, we can look at the women who acted to stake a claim on their place, and the place of all women, to be respected and give the freedom to make choices, to control our own destinies. The right to vote, the right to own property. We move on: We look at the suffragist movement, we look at the Tibetan Women’s Uprising in 1959, yes, on March 12th 1959 thousands of Tibetan women got together outside the Potala Palace, in one of the largest ever women lead spontaneous acts of non violent resistance. They were there to oppose the Chinese Communist Parties occupation of Tibet, and many of them died for being there that day. We look at the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. We look at the work, actions and philosophies of the women of the peace camp at Greenham Common. Out of which much feminist anti militarist campaigning has grown. In recent times, we’ve seen the Aldermaston Women’s Peace camp win a major court battle, when the powers that be tried to pass legislation that would have meant their monthly protest outside Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment would have become illegal. There is lots more too, how can I define herstory in a few short paragraphs, it’s a lifetimes work, rewriting women in history on an equal footing. And it helps to take a view that’s outside the box of what in the mainstream media translates as a predominantly top to bottom hierarchical ladder of importance view of the world.
This little blog post is the tip of the iceberg. And so I sum up. March is women’s history month. Look out for events, get involved. If something isn’t happening in your area, organise something. Be inspired, and move forward with more awareness of the women in your past, in your communities past, and in the international communities past, who’ve worked to shape possibilities and help you achieve freedoms in your present and your future.