Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Debold, EdD, an author, internationally reknowned gender researcher and cultural commentator has an interesting post @ Huffington Post Women suggests the perceived advancements for women in Western countries masks “a world of dignity, respect, and equality between the sexes.” Rather than celebrate historical advancements for women, Debold suggests we use Women’s History Month to think about fighting “for the higher values that ennoble our personal freedoms, so that they don’t get played out in a context that is fundamentally demeaning. … in the face of those who would demean us and other women, we have to protect our self-respect ferociously.” She encourages women to think of March 2012 as “another turning point in women’s history. Today can be the moment when…women shoulder the responsibility, cultivate the ferocity, and carry the vision to create a culture – in business, politics, and media – of true human equality based in mutual respect.”
March is Women’s History Month. Doesn’t that sound dreadfully boring, like some required course from college? These thirty-one days actually commemorate women’s courageous struggles for self-determination and justice, but with that almost academic label on it, it all seems rather, well, passé. History, obviously, is all in the past. So, what if we re-named March “Women Making History Month”? Because this month in 2012, we certainly have some history-making to do.
These placid and well-intentioned commemorations blunt the restless spirit that we are supposed to be celebrating. It’s the same with International Women’s Day, March 8. We note this day in history because of a series of revolts in the first decade of the 20th century by women garment workers who went on strike against brutal working conditions. In the former Soviet bloc countries, this day morphed from being a rallying cry against “kitchen slavery” to something akin to Mother’s Day — with cards and flowers and all. Worldwide it’s gone from gritty rebellion to a pastel day of reflection and appreciation. Over time, as we place these events safely behind us in the distant past, we forget that the ferocity that those women expressed against the inhuman, oppressive, and unjust is our own.
Since the 1970s when the UN took it on, International Women’s Day has transformed again, focusing on women in the developed world and helping our sisters in developing countries. No doubt that this is important, particularly given how privileged many educated women in the West are. But I wonder whether we can really revolutionize women’s lives worldwide without continuing to follow in the footsteps of our rebellious foresisters.