My first assignment writing on Women’s History Month for El Vaquero Newspaper could not have been more perfect, or so I thought. I figured I would flip open my laptop, type in those weighty words, “Women’s History Month,” and bells and whistles would go off and buzzers would sound. I would be overwhelmed as the Internet disgorged a bounty of information and events on the incredible achievements of women that would keep me busy writing all month. I would slide into my deadline and hit a home run, no problem.
Just like in the films, where the needle of the record scratches across one of those ancient objects called “vinyls” to indicate everything is coming to a screeching halt, so it did for me. The computer groaned out its less than thrilling contents, which amounted to little.
A quick phone call to Glendale’s City Council Commission on the Status of Women led me to discover that they are co-sponsoring one event, a screening of “Miss Representation.” Shocked that there would only be one event, I incredulously asked if there would be anything more.
“No, nothing,” the administrative assistant said despondently.
“Nothing else?” I asked incredulously. “No,” she replied. I asked if there were any other organizations I could speak to that she knew of.
“Not really,” she said sadly. “I can’t think of any.”
So this is the state of feminism today, at least in Glendale, and perhaps the Los Angeles area as well. However, at GCC this is fortunately not the case. GCC professor Peggy Renner has again coordinated an extensive schedule for Women’s History Month, which includes a series of lectures, screenings and panel discussions.
“It is so important for us to really understand how much women have contributed to making America the country that it is,” Renner said.
For more than 30 years, the National Women’s History Project has spearheaded celebrations for Women’s History Month. The project acts as an umbrella organization to provide information and training in multicultural women’s history. A specific theme is chosen every year. The theme for 2014 is celebrating “Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.” Twelve women honorees have been chosen this year, representing an eclectic mix of historical and contemporary accomplished women from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Although the origins of Women’s History Month can be traced back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911, it only became a month long celebration in the late 1980s. Previously, it had been known as Women’s History Week after the school district in Sonoma, Calif. designed a week-long event around International Women’s Day, which occurs on March 8. After being petitioned by the National Women’s History project, congress passed a measure in 1987, designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.
As I scoured the Internet for exciting events in celebration of Women’s History Month, I could not help but feel it is all a bit dry and does not truly engage young women. We have come a long way since our suffragette sisters were beaten, arrested, and ridiculed and force fed in prison just to obtain the vote. However, it seems we are still struggling to be taken seriously.
There is an incredible disparity still to be addressed for the world’s women, a world in which the Taliban shoot a 16-year old Pakistani schoolgirl in the head for the “crime” of wanting an education, and radicals of the right in the U.S. seek to roll back women’s rights.
Feminism appears to have been relocated to the dusty drawer and still elicits much eyebrow raising and heavy sighs. To me, it is disheartening to observe the extremely stereotypical roles played out on campus by men and women. It is not uncommon to observe the macho peacocking of young men alongside young women tottering along in impossibly high heels.
Patriarchy is entrenched in our society and even in some of the accomplishments of the women we are honoring for this historical month. We do not have to compete in the world that men have created, to act like them, to attain their goals or to fight in their wars and climb their ladders of power. We need to set our own goals.
This will take the courage and commitment the Women’s History Project speaks of. Female leadership is likely to be the only thing that stands between the self-destruct trajectory of the human race and a more egalitarian, prosperous future.
It would have been good to see a banner hanging from every corner declaring “Women’s History Month” is here, and perhaps even a little Soweto-style dancing in the streets. If we took a survey right now on campus, I doubt most young women would even know Women’s History Month is upon us.