WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH – IN A NUTSHELL
March 25, 2021
Translated by: Maria Galanopoulou
What is Women’s History Month? This brief article aims to teach you what you need to know!
What is Women’s History Month?
Women’s History Month is a month-long celebration, during which the contribution of women to history, culture, and society is commemorated. March is the chosen month, because, in the USA, this is when it has been celebrated from 1987 until today.
Why is it important to celebrate this month?
Throughout the years and for many centuries, the financial, social, and cultural place of women was, and still is, lower than and inferior to what we would expect in a society of equality and equity. Unsurprisingly, women have been ignored in every possible aspect, both in public and in private, of expressing their potential.
The following examples are typical:
Inventions made by women in many scientific fields were thrown into the garbage can, if not into the fire, while their trailblazers were either never acknowledged, or, even worse, their name was never associated with their innovative ideas and work.
Furthermore, an example from the realm of Literature is worth mentioning, since it is where female writers had, for years, been forced to sign with a male name, if they wished to maintain their hopes of actually having their work published. In fact, this problem was highlighted by Bailey’s company with their Reclaim Her Name campaign, within the context of which, 25 books by eminent female authors that had originally been published under a male or gender-neutral pseudonym, were re-published.
IMPORTANT HISTORICAL EVENTS AND MILESTONES
VOTING RIGHTS FOR WOMEN - SUFFRAGE
Starting in the late 19th century, women tried to change the legislation in order to enshrine the right of (universal) voting.
National and international organizations were established to coordinate the efforts for the accomplishment of this goal, especially the International Alliance of Women’s Rights, founded in 1904, in Berlin, Germany, as well as for equal civil rights for women.
New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant the national voting right to women in 1893. The suffragette Kate Sheppard, in collaboration with campaign colleagues, presented their request before the Parliament, having gathered approximately 32,000 signatures.
Additionally, the voting right was granted to women between 1893 and 1960, in 129 out of the 198 countries that were analyzed by the Pew Research Center. Among these countries, there are 6 European countries, too. Switzerland (1971), Portugal (1976), and Lichtenstein (1984) are among the countries that allowed universal voting after 1960.
In the case of Greece, the first-time women voted was for the general elections on 19th February 1965. This was the onset of the implementation of universal voting in action, even though it had already been enshrined in the Constitution of 1864, with women having been recognized as possessing the status of citizens.
The Second-Wave Feminism of the 1960s-1980s had as its motto “the personal is political”, thus encouraging women to realize that their personal lives reflect the sexist and male-dominated power structures. This second “wave” of feminism was focused on issues of equality and discrimination, while Betty Friedan, an American author, activist, and feminist, played an important role in this movement.
The use of contraception and the turn towards the elimination of violence against women were among the accomplishments of second-wave feminism. However, in the beginning, there was considerable discrimination when it came to contraception, since only white women had access to it.
Second-Wave Feminism creeps into Greece in approximately 1975 and it brings about significant changes. Some landmark dates include the recognition of women’s right to vote in 1952, a plethora of changes in family law in 1983, as well as the signing of the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women” in the year concerned.
Women named the Second Wave “Movement for the Liberation of Women”. Back then, women used to organize themselves in small and independent groups, which were often characterized by vague or even non-existent hierarchy. What is interesting is the fact that these groups had decided to distance themselves from the party actors from whom they were freed, now acting autonomously.
Third-Wave Feminism was initially detected in the 1990s in the USA. The main issues with which third-wave feminism is concerned, are gendered violence related to harassment, rape and domestic violence, reproductive rights, but also issues related to sexual liberation, the rights of intersex people, the support of single-parent families, etc.
Third-wave feminists, influenced by the postmodernism movement in the academia, made an effort to question and redefine the concepts, the words, and the means that transmitted ideas about womanhood, gender, beauty, sexuality, femininity and masculinity. For third-wave feminism there is not one and only way of being a woman. Besides, concerning the aspect of gender, Judith Butler claimed that sex is distinct from gender, discussing its performativity for the first time.
The goal of the Third Wave was to defy the stereotypes of the social roles of the genders and to include women of diverse racial and social identities in feminism. Finally, the Third Wave embraced trans women more strongly, openly acknowledging trans femininity.
During third-wave feminism the term “intersectionality” appears, as introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectionality is the complex way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) are linked, overlapping, or intertwining, especially when it comes to the experiences of marginalized groups or people.
Fourth-wave feminism is the trend that, according to To Mov (English: The Purple) website, began “approximately in 2012 and is linked to the use of social media” as means of “serving justice for women on issues of sexual harassment and abuse, violence or misogyny, as well as rape culture”.
This time it is technology that enhances and defines the possibilities of representing women’s voices, but, at the same time, it raises issues concerning the classism it creates, since accessibility to and technical knowledge of the media is not guaranteed, hence the fact that, in the beginning, fourth-wave feminism was mainly represented by adolescent or young women.
In fourth-wave feminism, hashtags have a prominent place, as in the cases of #askmoremore or #metoo, and can be spread in only a few minutes, thus making known stories of victims that trigger a chain-reaction of empowerment, solidarity, new confessions, and loud admissions of women, but also men.
It is actively proved that throughout history women have been marginalized, divided, with their work and contribution to society appropriated, not only as women, but also through the roles that they were asked to perform. From first- to fourth-wave feminism, we notice that collective effort and struggle, the courage to demand equal rights and the reclamation of the “natural laws” promoted by the dominant patriarchal structures are the key to women’s struggle. And even though we have merely scratched the surface of the struggle for equality, it seems that the future is promising for every single woman out there!
So, Happy Women’s History Month!