Last month, Ari at Reading in Color had a great post about Black History Month, sharing her frustrations with relegating all of the rich history of African Americans to the shortest month of the year. I wanted to applaud her post, because every word she said was so true, and her thoughts are so similar to mine on women's history month.
Women's history month is unfortunately necessary in some ways. I would rather women be recognized a little bit rather than not at all. But I have a love/hate relationship with this month, because I've witnessed first hand how women really do get left out of our collective consciousness the rest of the year.
I still distinctly remember having to get special permission to do projects on women at least twice in my school career. In elementary school, third grade I think, we were doing some sort of biography project on famous Americans - and there wasn't a single woman on the list. I had just found out I am related (distantly) to Abigail Adams and figured she had to count - so I asked to do a project on her. Mine was the only presentation in an entire class of third graders that was about a woman. Oh, and my teacher that year? Was a woman.
Years later, this time as a senior in high school taking AP English, our summer reading list was heavily skewed towards male writers. We got the list before the start of the summer at a meeting to be sure we all knew exactly what we were getting into. Seeing the dearth of female names, I asked if the reading list for the whole year was going to look like this, and the teacher assured me it wasn't - that there would even be explicitly feminist texts in our midterm reading project.
When that midterm project came around, the entire list consisted of novels written by (non-feminist) men. I was furious and asked the teacher where was the promised feminist work - she gave me the title she had been considering and warned me I might find it "too extreme." Yes, again this class was taught by a woman. (The book she gave me was Susan Faludi's Backlash, which I found far from being extreme at the time - clearly the teacher underestimated my feminist streak!).
So for years and years in school, the only time I learned about women's contributions to history, science, or literature was either in March or when I made enough of a fuss to get them included (and I was always the sole rabble-rouser). This, as I alluded to yesterday, is why my reading tastes to this day skew heavily female and contemporary: I had to spend so much time reading about the exploits of men (usually white men), that in my free time I wanted to read about people like me. I do consider myself incredibly lucky that I can focus so much on women's and girls' stories and find no lack of compelling stories to read, but I certainly wish there had been more emphasis on getting these stories into the everyday curriculum.
For me, every month is women's history month. That's why I spend so much of my time on this blog discussing feminist issues, whether they are underdeveloped female characters, women's roles in historical events or dissections of class and racial struggles. That's the beautiful thing about feminism - so many topics fit under the umbrella I'll never be bored! Nothing is going to change here for the duration of March - in venues where people are struggling to fully include women's stories, highlight the month makes sense, but here it really wouldn't make much of a difference, would it?
I hope you have a happy March - and some woman-positive experiences from unexpected sources.