“Re-vision – the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction – is for woman more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society.” ― Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978
HERE WE ARE, at the end of March, and I’m finally writing about Women’s History Month. I’m not sure what has taken me so long. Perhaps it’s the embarrassment of my own ignorance of history — both in general and women’s place in it.
All through my school career and to the present, I have enjoyed language, music, the arts, and physical education, but I confess that I always disliked the subject of history — all those events and dates to memorize. My eyes would roll just thinking about it. To me, history always seemed to be a recitation of countries at war, men fighting over gold or land. I simply was not — and am still not — interested in war stories.
No one explained to me that history is the human Story — with a capital S — how it can be exciting or why it’s important to know and understand.
And so, relegating all history to the back of the closet, I have remained mostly ignorant of how the human race has evolved and migrated, how civilizations have risen and fallen, of scientific discoveries and social movements, and the part women have played in shaping the world we live in today.
Women all over the world have made huge contributions to the advancement of science, social justice and equality, literature, and the arts. And yes, even to war. And today, there are more women in the political arena than ever before. Yet history as taught in schools still focuses on the actions of men, and the many ways women have contributed remain mostly hidden.
This is why Women’s History Month is important. The purpose of having a Women’s History month is to give women more of a voice, to shatter stereotypes, honor their contributions, and provide inspiration for future generations.
The following prompts will help you explore your thoughts and attitudes about women’s role in the world — historical, social, and political.
- In your family and the culture you grew up in, what was the general attitude about the role of women? Did you internalize that attitude? What questions do you now have about that point of view?
- Do you think there is such a thing as “a woman’s role”? Why or why not? Write your thoughts on this topic.
- What influences have contributed to your attitudes and beliefs about women and their place in the world?
- Consider the following statement: “Women are half the world’s population, yet for the most part they remain subjugated to the physical and political power of men.”
- What is your emotional response as you read that statement?
- Do you think the statement is true or false? If true, why do you think it’s true, and what do you think it will take to change this social order? If false, why do you think it’s false?
- What do you know about women’s history and what can you do to increase your knowledge?
- In what ways can learning more about women’s history inspire you personally?
- If you could have a discussion with one highly influential woman from history, who would that be, and what questions would you ask her?
- How do you foresee women’s roles changing or developing in the future? Do you see things changing or remaining the same? If changing, how will that change come about and what will it be like?
- Describe your ideal world in terms of gender. What would that look like, and what would it feel like to be a girl raised in that world?
After journaling to one or more of these prompts, write a summary of what you learned about your attitudes and beliefs about women’s roles or about women’s place in history. In what ways are you more self-aware than before you journaled? Then, please share your story in the comments section.
Resources for Women’s History Month:
- Resources | National Women’s History Museum
- Women’s History – Best of History Web Sites
- Women’s History Resource Links | National Women’s History Alliance
- Feminist Research Center – Women’s History Collections – Feminist …