What It Feels Like For A Girl (AKA The Blog I’ve Been Waiting To Write)
The list of commemorative months is long and- I’ll admit it- kind of amusing. There is, of course, National Novel Writing Month (November), which I’m sure most of you have heard of- but did you know that in the US, July is considered ‘National Hotdog Month’? And according to Wikipedia, September also celebrates a seemingly ridiculous food choice with ‘National Pomegranate Tootsie Roll Pop Awareness Month’ (it doesn’t seem to be working, as until now I had no clue that pomegranate tootsie roll pops even existed).
Among these incredibly random commemorative months are far more important ones. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. My mom could name Black History Month (February), Autism Awareness Month (April), and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) off of the top of her head in three seconds flat. My school celebrates all of the above as well as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (February) and National Bullying Prevention Month (October). They’re always big events, with speakers and flyers and trivia games. I’m not sure how prevalent these types of celebrations are outside my earnest high school hallways, but even if you don’t usually take part in any celebrations, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of the most popular commemorative months.
So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, here’s the thing: I surveyed ten people today, and all of them knew about most of the months I mentioned above (other than the silly food months). None of them, however, knew that March was Women’s History Month.
Maybe this is a regional thing (if so, I am sorely disappointed- though not too surprised- in my Texan city). But the fact that the schools I’ve been attending for the past ten years have celebrated Black History Month and Autism Awareness Month and a whole host of other months and yet I’ve never even heard of Women’s History Month- it’s kind of depressing. And it highlights something, I think.
So when I was told that the HPA was partnering with Behind the Brands, part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign to help create a world where everyone has enough to eat, and that we were promoting a newly launched initiative centered around March 8th- International Women’s Day- I decided that I, as the resident blog team feminist, would be the right person to write a blog about it, and I jumped at the chance. Because being an active feminist for several years- meaning that I run a feminist blog and write feminism editorials for my school newspaper that never get published because people think they’re too embarrassing- yet never having heard of International Women’s Day or Women’s History Month is disturbing to me.
The truth is that this sort of thing is hidden quite a bit more than people think. Women’s equality is often overlooked because people believe that we’ve already reached it. Yet the fight over women’s reproductive rights… the rape culture that our society fosters… the wage gap and many people’s reluctance to admit it… the fact that the average percentage of female protagonists in the top 100 grossing movies in 2011 was 11 percent… the lack of celebrations for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month: it’s all a glaringly obvious sign that we still have not reached gender equality. Yet, this isn’t taught in schools- I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard teenage boys say that “women’s rights have gone too far” because males are expected to “pay for dates” and “can’t get child custody”. Hint: the problems you’re attributing to feminism are a result of the patriarchy.
And all of this is far, far worse in developing countries. Behind the Brands is focusing on women and cocoa in their current campaign, which, admittedly, fits very nicely into the HPA’s Not In Harry’s Name campaign. In the same way that children are used for slave labor, women are also widely harmed and discriminated against when it comes to cocoa farms. Women contribute largely to the cocoa production but still get paid much less; get much less access to education, loans, credit, training, and hired labor; and rarely get to own their farming land despite the large amount of time they dedicate to it. Women represent at least half the world’s agricultural workforce yet receive next to no recognition for it and have no way to fight back against their poverty and discrimination.
Company investment in woman cocoa farmers would increase the production of cocoa and allow women and their families to attain food security and equality. The HPA supports Oxfam’s campaign and we hope you do too! You can sign the petition to encourage Mars, Nestle, and Mondelez to protect women’s rights in cocoa production here. While you’re at it, head over to showusthereport.com to sign the HPA’s Not In Harry’s Name petition if you haven’t already.
Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are important for a lot of reasons. It’s important to acknowledge the accomplishments of women in history since they’re so rarely acknowledged in ordinary history classes. The textbooks we use in class are nearly always white, upper class, and male-dominated. I remember the first moment I realized that I wanted to be a part of the feminist movement was when I read this quote by Sandi Toksvig on Tumblr: “When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar,” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?”
Whether the calender was made by a women or a man is irrelevant; what’s important is the fact that so many female accomplishments have been undermined or overlooked throughout history simply because they were associated with women and not men. This makes International Women’s Day even more important, because when you realize that this sort of ignorance is still prevalent today, you start to get a little scared. We don’t just need to celebrate women’s history- we need to celebrate their present and their future as well, especially for those who don’t have a voice themselves, like the women cocoa farmers.
Females make up over half of the world’s entire population and yet we still allow women to be discriminated against all over the world, in all countries, all ages, all positions of work. It’s not always obvious- but it’s there.
Maybe it’s about time that we speak up.
To end this mammoth piece, I’ll send you along with a few resources. I got the 11% statistic from here– it’s a great read about women in media and I highly suggest you read it. You can also find more information about the Behind the Brands campaign here and the official International Women’s Day Website is here. And after scouring the HPA’s previous writings, I found that last year the HPA wrote a group of several blogs dedicated entirely to Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. I kicked myself for not getting involved with the HPA sooner- I am so lucky to be here right now, with people who actually care. I would have loved to be informed on International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month a year or two ago.
You can find those blogs in the International Women’s Day tag here. Happy reading!