22 March 2023
Bluetooth, the modern dishwasher, life rafts, and bullet proof fiber. These ideas and others that fueled the technological advancements of the twentieth and twenty-first century were all made possible by incredible women. On March 8th, 1908 female needle workers marched throughout New York City’s lower East Side to protest for women’s suffrage, child labor and sweatshop working conditions. The anniversary was eventually observed as International Women’s Day. Later in the 20th century, former President Jimmy Carter in 1980 issued the first presidential proclamation that made the week of March 8th National Women’s History Week. In 1987 the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to make the entire month of March dedicated to Women’s History.
The National Women’s History Project, renamed to the National Women’s Alliance in 2023, is centered in Santa Rosa California. The NWA is currently focused on, “Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.”
Atholton’s Women’s Studies course teaches students about the history of women and the achievements that were lost to history. Women’s achievements are often falsely attributed to men, who claim their female colleagues’ work is their own. Mrs. Crystal Shelley commented that the discrimination is due to, “cultural norms that our society has operated on for a really long time. These norms create a structure that is inherently unequal. Patriarchal societies, like ours have helped to preserve the norms of our society and people don’t like change. You can see this discrimination in politics, the workplace, school dress codes, equal pay…. just to name a few.”
Atholton’s Be The Change Club acknowledges the importance of Women’s History Month in the present day. Co-Presidents Sophie Urdinola and Julie Ballou want to make sure that people know the importance of being educated about Women’s History. Co-President Urdinola expressed, “It is the unfortunate truth that the long-standing, ubiquitous patriarchy has impacted multiple facets of life for women. And while we have come a long way, the negative effects of misogyny still permeate society today. One of the most unfortunate manners in which women are discriminated against today is in the work force and when getting paid. There is still a strikingly large gap between what men are paid versus what women are paid, even if they are doing the exact same work! Additionally, the pink tax is extremely discriminatory. The pink tax makes it so that any product marketed towards ‘women’, like menstrual products and “women’s” razors, are charged more.”
To celebrate with and educate Atholton, for their club specifically, Be The Change plans on, “hosting our information and discussion meeting in which our research directors will be educating our club on Women’s History Month and prominent and influential women. After this educational session, we will then form discussion groups and explore questions like- “Why is it important to look back at history from a female perspective? How is it different from the way we typically look at history?”- in order for our members to discover new aspects and gain insight on other’s perspectives while discussing culturally relevant questions,” comments Urdinola . Ballou chimed in , “We [Be The Change] are doing our annual Menstrual Products Drive where we collect donations of pads and tampons to be donated to a local shelter to help end period poverty.” The products from this drive go towards Atholton’s neighbor Grassroots and the local non-profit organization Laurel Advocacy & Referral services.
Many misogynists say that women have no need to fight for rights in our present day. Things like the wage gap have been heavily argued about for years with women getting paid 83% of what men get paid. Phyllis Schlafy, a proclaimed ‘anti-feminist’ stated, “Newsflash: one reason a woman gets married is to be supported by her husband while caring for her children at home. So long as her husband earns a good income she doesn’t care about the pay gap between them.” However the wage gap affects all women; women are working hard for their money and are only being paid 83% of what their male counterparts are being paid. This discourages women from wanting to pursue higher positions because they won’t be making nearly as much money as their male coworkers. The wage gap has been rooted in many patriarchal societies as far back as the 50s where women were being paid 60% of what men were being paid. During WWII women had to take over a majority of the workforce to provide jobs that men serving could no longer do. However, once those men returned from war women were expected to return to household work immediately. This rightfully upset many women who wanted to keep working and helped spark the women’s movement .
The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24th 2022 continues to illustrate the relevance of feminist issues. There has been a widespread debate on the internet, news, and everyday conversation on the future of reproductive rights for women. Many Americans believe that Roe v. Wade was encouraging women to get abortions, and with 61% of Americans identifying as ‘pro-life’ it’s no surprise that the law was more likely to be overturned. The overturning may not seem like an important matter but, “The impact will be felt by the most vulnerable women in our society who will lack access to the health care they need,” said Mrs. Shelley. “It is inline with all of women’s history… as whenever women chip away at the patriarchal structures in society there is a backlash. This has been repeated throughout our history.”
While the future of women’s rights may seem murky, numerous organizations help women around the world gain access to better healthcare and job opportunities. These organizations include the Boulanger Initiative, 500 Women Scientists, Crossroads for Women, Helping Women Period, Rejuvenating Women, Thrive Women’s Clinic, Women In Need Society, WomenRising, Omaha Girls Rock, Girls Write Nashville, Girls On The Run, and Planned Parenthood. Students can also organize fundraisers at school to help raise money for local organizations here in Maryland like, Sister 4 Sisters, Women Palante, Representwomen Inc., and Sisterhood Agenda. Urdinola recommended “getting involved in campaigns that help women in need, like UNITE to End Violence against Women and HeforShe, and donate to organizations, like Planned Parenthood and Equality Now.” With Co-President Ballou continuing to recommend that people, “help educate yourself on current issues involving discrimination against women. You can also shop at female-owned businesses.”
Though some may disagree, there is still a need for women’s rights in 2023. As Mrs. Shelley stated, “People still have a negative view of feminism and women’s history. People still cringe when you say you are a feminist, and the scowl at the words “patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity”… if people take the time to dig deeper into women’s history and gender studies they will better see why these are not harmful words but ones we must discuss and confront if we ever hope to move beyond patriarchal societal structures that harm people of all genders.”