Wednesday , March 08, 2017 - 5:30 AM3 comments
It hasn’t been so long ago that as a country we began to celebrate Women’s History Month. In fact, I was 4 years old the first time Women’s History Week was celebrated in Sonoma County, California. Started in 1978 as an effort to recognize the role of women in American history, organizers from the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women coordinated speakers, held an essay contest and hosted a parade.
Molly Murphy MacGregor, one of the originators of the event, shared stories about the experience at a conference at Sarah Lawrence College the next year. Those in attendance thought the celebration was a brilliant idea and like wildfire, it caught on quickly.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 the first National Women’s History Week. The next year, then-Rep. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, and Utah’s Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican, co-sponsored a congressional resolution for National Women’s History Week. This sponsorship demonstrated bipartisan support for acknowledging, honoring and celebrating the work of American women. By 1987, Congress had permanently declared the month of March as Women’s History Month.
As this year’s celebration begins, I am troubled by the lack of support for women I see around me. Perhaps it started in January with Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C., Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake City and other locations around the country. Rumblings about women were almost immediate. Women should stay home. Women should protest quietly. Women shouldn’t protest at all. Following the protests, people argued that the women, and the men and genderqueer who protested with them were vulgar. Some argued that women have enough rights and need to leave well enough alone.
These are the same arguments people made in the early 1900s about women who wanted the right to vote. Comments printed in anti-suffrage literature claimed women were less intelligent or would vote the same way as their fathers or husbands, so they were already represented. A concerned few worried about the impact of women’s voting on the sanctity of marriage, while others expressed concern about the potential for politics to corrupt women. Then the 19th Amendment came around in 1920, and everything changed. Today, we can’t imagine that women, as American citizens for almost 100 years, once didn’t have the right to vote. Yet we still do not have constitutional protection that would end discrimination based on sex.
As with voting rights, I am at a loss trying to understand how an Equal Rights Amendment could hurt this country. Now is the time to consider the complexity of what we say about women versus what we believe about women versus what we want or expect women to do. If we value women, and have an entire month to celebrate and reflect on their contributions to this society and honor them, then shouldn’t we want a law that reflects these words, our beliefs and expectations for women and for society at large? As I celebrate Women’s History Month, I do so because 100 years from now, I want people to recognize we advanced as a society, protecting all people from discrimination based on sex by changing our Constitution. Then the celebration can truly begin.
Adrienne Andrews is Weber State University’s chief diversity officer. Twitter: @AdieAndrewsCDO.
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