Women’s History Month focuses on the future

The United States uses the month of March to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of women to history, culture, and society. This became an annual tradition in 1987 and will be observed from March 1 through March 31 for 2021.

Women’s History Month appreciates advancements of well-known historical figures like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks, but also women who have slipped through the pages of history without any well deserved recognition.

Women like Nellie Bly, a New York journalist in the 1890s. She got herself admitted into the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island and wrote an article exposing the horrible treatment of patients. Her work is considered a revolution in investigative journalism.

Women like Sybil Ludington who, at 16 years old, rode twice the distance of Paul Revere to warn nearby towns of the British attacks.

Women like Mary Tape who sued the San Francisco school board in 1884 for denying her daughter admission to public school solely based on the fact she was Chinese. She went on to win the case, granting Chinese children the right to public school education. However, the school district instead built a Chinese primary school as a way to keep everything “separate but equal.”

Women’s fight for equality has spanned long before the United States, though, and is celebrated on March 8: International Women’s Day.

This year’s theme is #choosetochallenge, a call to speak out against gender inequality when you see it. There are still pressing issues that demand our utmost attention when it comes to dealing with inequality.

Some are heartbreaking, like the work being done by the organization Girls Not Brides.

They actively look to protect young girls from child marriage. Each year 12 million girls are married before the age of 18, mainly because they are viewed as being less valuable than a male child and married off to ease economical burden.

Other issues are so common that they feel normal in daily life.
A study done by YouGov, an international data and research analyst group, found that over 50 percent of American women are fearful of walking alone at night compared to 16 percent of men.

Women are taught to prevent being sexually assaulted rather than teaching others not to assault people. Women are told to cover up as not to be a distraction; others should be told to mind their own business.

If a girl feels confident in what she is wearing, then she shouldn’t be shamed into wearing something different solely because others have never been taught self control.

The kind of media we consume is partly an issue. The amount of media that hypersexualizes women distorts society’s view on the value of women. A study done by the American Psychological Association found that 51.8 percent of women’s magazines portrays women as sex objects, while 76 percent of men’s magazines objectifies women.

This hypersexualization of women can have serious detriments on young girls, resulting in low self-esteem, poor self-image, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders.

It’s hard to preach about body confidence to a world where there is a severe lack of plus sized representation in the media or the continued erasure of things like acne, cellulite, or stretch marks.

Women’s bodies are almost taboo, particularly in terms of menstruation. Merely mentioning it is enough to make some people cringe; from a young age girls are taught to hide something that is completely natural and out of their control.

Menstruation has become a joke, a way to brush off women’s emotions and opinions.

Why menstrual products have a tax attached to them? They aren’t a luxury. It’s clear that if those who had periods were at the table when that sales tax was being drafted, then there would have been a line drawn.

Women are 47 percent more likely to be injured in a car crash because safety features are created to fit the build of an average man, according to a study done by the University of Virginia.

How can we pride ourselves on equality when little things slip through the cracks and become normalized?

They might seem insignificant to some, but that’s because they haven’t understood what it’s like to be seen as less for something completely out of their control.

There has been a positive push, however. This current season of “The Bachelor,” for example, was the first time I had seen women held accountable for tearing each other down and called out for being bullies on a reality show.

More and more women are being believed. The #MeToo movement allowed women to band together and amplify their voices to the justice system. Prominent figures such as Bill Cosby and Harvey Weistein have since found themselves serving time in prison.

The number of female CEOs are at an all time high, with many countries also working to close the pay gap. Roughly eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs and, while only six countries give women equal legal work rights as men, more countries are beginning to pass laws to ensure women are not being discriminated against in the workplace.

The numbers are by no means exceptional, but still indicate a step in the right direction.

Learning about past feminists and celebrating their achievements is a great way to learn about how we can make the next push towards equality.

This March, don’t just #choosethechallenge for one day. Challenge inequality all month, take action.

Petition or report media outlets that perpetuate hypersexualized imagery of women/girls, use social media as a way to bring awareness to inequality, or become educated on the issue (documentaries like “Equal Means Equal” are a great place to start!).