Journaling to Explore Your Beliefs About “A Woman’s Role” 4

“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.


Journaling Prompts

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:


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4 thoughts on “Journaling to Explore Your Beliefs About “A Woman’s Role”

  • Sara Etgen-Baker Post author

    I recognize that some women feel subjugated, but I’ve not had experiences that made me feel that way. I was raised in a home and neighborhood that was predominantly male and was accepted for who and what I was. Yes, I had to stand my ground, and quite often. My father himself taught me the courage to quietly stand my ground, sometimes without speaking a word. Yes, I grew up in a time in which our culture promoted male dominance. I’ve seen that culture transform drastically during my lifetime. No, the culture is far from being perfect, but it is moving and changing and almost to the point that men are emasculated and made to feel guilty just for being a male. That change in attitude grieves me, for it serves no more purpose for men than it served for women. Sometimes, I feel anger when women play the “subjugation” card so easily. They set themselves up as victims. I believe this prevailing attitude of victimization in all races and cultures is destroying the fabric individual and collective lives. Okay, enough said. The prompts stirred something in me. Thanks for those, however.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sara, for some reason your comment ended up attached to a different post — I’m pretty sure you meant for it to be here, so I moved it.

      You have been lucky in your life, Sara, to be raised with two loving parents and having had encouragement to be strong and stand up for yourself. A great many women are not that lucky, and acknowledging that fact does not necessarily create an attitude of victimization. It’s just a fact. Certainly, in our (American) and European cultures women enjoy a level of equality that is unprecedented in history. We are not the whole world, however, and there are millions of women who remain mostly (at least outwardly) powerless in their societies. I do agree with you, however, that concepts of both male and female roles need to be reconsidered — what does it mean to be a man or a woman? Equality does not mean making one gender worse than the other. (And think about that term “emasculated” — what does that mean, anyway, and why is it a bad thing? Is it bad to be a woman, who is “emasculated”?) — I’m not putting forth an opinion here, but asking us to think about the unconscious biases and assumptions we make about gender.

      Good discussion! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • Catharine Farrell

    What influences have contributed to your attitudes and beliefs about women and their place in the world?
    As I considered this question this morning, I was surprised how grateful I am that I grew up in the South: Mississippi and Texas. Though many think of Southern culture as backward, I can say one thing for certain, that Southern women are outspoken. This is true of all races down South, white, black, and brown. I was surrounded by women who spoke up, talked to everyone, and were not afraid of confrontation. My godmother was my role model, an unmarried women who was most likely gay, who created ripples in town (San Antonio) wherever she went. My Tia (courtesy aunt) was fierce in her loyalties, crossed racial lines back in the 50s during segregation, visited friends in Mexico as if there were no borders, and loved me as her blood relative–her kissing kin. Though Tia was a strong influence in my young life, she was typical of many Texan women, brash and in your face. I owe her and the Southern culture for much of my personal success throughout my life. Not impressed with status, but wanting to connect in an authentic way, women from a simpler background, closer to the earth can often be more powerful.