March is Women’s History Month, and even though March will be more than half over by the time this article is published, it is still a worthy topic. I am disappointed that I have not heard more about it over the years considering the importance of discussions about women’s rights. It was so under the radar this year that I almost missed it aside from International Women’s Day.
To give a brief history of Women’s History Month, we need to look back at the earliest Women’s Day observance, held on February 28, 1909 in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. It is important to note that the idea of celebrating women’s history is barely a decade older than women having the right to vote in the United States. On March 8, 1917, a demonstration of women textile workers began in the capital of the Russian Empire (then Petrograd, now St. Petersburg) covering the whole city. This was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. One week later, the Emperor Nicholas II renounced his throne and the provisional government granted Russian women the right to vote. March 8 was declared a national holiday in Soviet Russia in 1917 and was primarily celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until 1975, when it was adopted by the United Nations.
International Women’s Day first took place two years after the first Women’s Day observance and has been celebrated annually on March 8 ever since. This single-day celebration grew into a week. In 1978 — not even forty years ago — the world witnessed its first Women’s History week. Almost decade later, in 1987, the world saw the first month-long celebration of women’s history. It seems clear just from this short history lesson that women’s issues and female empowerment are not only getting more attention, but also more support.
I don’t remember the first time I learned about “female empowerment” or the word “feminism,” but it seems that I hear it more and more every day. It is becoming an increasingly popular subject in the political arena in the United States and I think it has been quite a long time since I went more than a day without hearing one or both of those phrases. It is great that the ideas of female empowerment and gender equality are getting so much attention, but there are still so many people who think this movement toward gender equality is unnecessary and who are stuck in the mindset that feminists hate men or are crazy.
I was not always so sure about how I felt about the word “feminism” and I felt like if I used it to describe myself, that I needed to clarify by saying, “but I’m not crazy like those feminists.” I did not appreciate the importance of female empowerment when I was younger. When I reflect on those thoughts now, I think that a) wow, that’s cringeworthy, b) it’s crazy how far that I have come from that time, and c) now I think female empowerment is incredibly important and I wish that it had been a bigger part of my life growing up.
Growing up, I remember my mom instilling a major fear of being attacked by men on the street, to the point that I had a lot of trouble feeling okay walking around campus my freshman year. Even though I had that fear (and to an extent, I still do) for a long time, I never thought that that was not something that I should have to be prepared to deal with. I wish that instead of focusing so much energy on giving me anxiety about being attacked, she had focused some of it on empowering me and educating me on women’s issues. I hope that the next generation of parents will focus more energy on empowering their daughters, as well as educating their sons about issues of gender inequality and how they can help to make a difference.