Since 1987, March has marked Women’s History Month. In 2018, Royal Holloway SU takes this opportunity to join in with the celebrations and commemorations in line with this year’s theme – ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’.
The theme brings about a sense of… well, persistence. It’s the idea of success in the face of constant adversity, that despite every trial and barrier, that women have pushed themselves through such difficulties and raised themselves to excellence regardless.
This month celebrates excellence. It looks back on the history of the world and acknowledges that women have been, and will always be pioneers. From our own Emily Wilding Davison and George Eliot, to Amelia Earheart and Ada Lovelace, the fields of art and science are full of women who have excelled.
Beer, The Handmaid’s Tale, stem cell isolation, The Two Fridas, and chocolate chip cookies, are just a handful of creations that have come from a gender systematically oppressed and exploited throughout history.
And that oppression still has its ramifications today. We see it consistently in the way women are presented, talked about, expected to behave, the double standards set up by a society steeped in sexism and misogyny. We are still recovering from centuries of missed opportunities and mistreatment, but nevertheless, the gap is narrowing, and it is narrowing rapidly.
A question often asked about women’s history usually goes something like this – “Why are there so few female inventors/creators?” It’s important to address this imbalance, and to address it properly. Too often is it cited as a reason for women being inherently less intelligent than men, or that women’s history is unimportant compared to men’s.
Consider that women did not even begin to see equal education standards until the 1800s, especially at a higher education and university level. We’re all aware of Bedford College’s pivotal role women’s education, but it’s important to recognize that men had been receiving this level of education for centuries.
And so the reason we see significantly fewer female creators can generally be attributed to the fact that they simply did not have access to the same kinds of education. Switch these sexes around and we’d see a completely different outcome.
It’s also important to take this time to recognise those who typically lie on the outskirts of this month – women of colour, trans women, undocumented women, queer women, and non-binary individuals. Their contributions to women’s history, and to history as a whole cannot be ignored. Marsha P. Johnson, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, and Shirley Chrisholm have all impacted on the lives of so many people.
Celebrating Women’s History Month also means celebrating the history of these marginalised groups, and to ignore their contributions does a severe disservice to the month.
As we go about our business this month, it may be worth taking the time to consider what our future might look like. There is still inequality, injustice, and unfairness. There is still racism, homophobia, and misogyny. But nevertheless, we will persist.
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