Bringing the Present into Women’s History Month

A protest sign from the 2017 San Francisco Women’s March. PHOTO BY DALE CRUSE COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The word “history” in Women’s History Month might initially only conjure thoughts about women who came long before now, overlooking the revolutionary women of today. The members of USF’s Her Campus chapter, however, remind us that women are making history every day. 

I attended a Women’s History Month writing workshop in Cowell Hall hosted by Her Campus the evening of March 23, where participants were encouraged to talk about women who inspired them. Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Malala Yousafzai were all mentioned. Looking at the images of these women projected on the pull-down screen, I was struck by how so many of them are still alive today. Some of the most impactful moments in women’s history are the ones happening right now. 

One student, explaining why they are so inspired by Ocasio-Cortez, said that she represents the future of politics. It might seem odd that Women’s History Month would make us look to the future, but it’s fitting. The past can inform the way we look to the future and attempt to shape it through the present. 

Her Campus is a national media organization and writing platform for women in college. MaryCate Sperrazza, a senior international studies major, is the president and campus correspondent of USF’s Her Campus. “Her Campus’s mission is to empower female-identifying college-aged students by providing a platform to share their experiences, passions, and desires,” Sperazza stated in an interview with the Foghorn. Part of this includes celebrating Women’s History. “What better way to know ourselves than to know our predecessors?” 

Women’s History Month emerged from national efforts from women around the country. The National Women’s History Alliance noted that because women’s history was not a topic outside of higher education, the Education Task Force of Sonoma County created a celebration for a “Women’s History Week” in 1978. It took the work of organizations, schools, city councils, and eventually the U.S. Congress to finally permanently institute a Women’s History Month in 1987. 

Women’s History Month was created to address a specific absence: the absence of women’s history as a distinct, recognized topic in education. But that doesn’t mean Women’s History Month should be limited to this. 

One of Sperazza’s recent posts on the Her Campus website highlights some of the prominent women who are “making history today,” including inspiring figures such as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is the current nominee for the open seat on the Supreme Court. Other articles written for the USFCA chapter cover reconciling with childhood trauma, platonic relationships, and being single on Valentine’s day. 

“I believe that Women’s History Month is important because it provides a month for everyone to focus on and truly reflect on the history of sex-based marginalization and provide a clearer path for how we must respond in the future,” Sperazza said. “I think that it accomplishes its goals for those who seek them, but there is much more to do. One of the biggest downfalls with Women’s History Month is the lack of representation and intersectionality when it comes to its platform on a wide-scale level,” she continued. 

If you are looking for present-focused ways to celebrate Women’s History Month this year, there’s no need to look farther than the Bay Area. The City of San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women recognizes women in the community each year. Women’s March San Francisco also published calls to action, which referenced the For the People Act, the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, and organizations like Alliance for Girls and Planned Parenthood. You can discover new aspects of women’s history through programming KQED has lined up for Women’s History Month, or you can watch current TV shows and movies with inspiring or complex female characters. 

Her Campus has content divided into pages on culture, style, wellness, life and career topic areas, and currently has a page devoted to women’s history month. In every area, there are articles written by female-identifying students, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the stories and voices of young women. 

Women’s History Month reminds us of the power of women in the distant and not-so-distant past, and should teach us that history is not static. Women that inspire us today are also making women’s history, and we should acknowledge the ways that everything we do today to uplift women and gender minorities will also shape the not-so-distant future. 

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