Women make indispensable contributions every day in sustaining this nation and society | Opinion

March 21, 2022 5:40 am

(photo by Albina Lavrentyeva/iStock Images).

As we near the end of another Women’s History Month, it is abundantly clear that one month is woefully inadequate to celebrate, let alone cover, the myriad of contributions women have made and continue to make in fostering the well-being of this nation and society.

The fact that we set aside a month to recognize those contributions bespeaks of where we have been — and also how far we need to go.

Hopefully, there will come a day when the accomplishments of women will be interwoven in American and world history as accurately and completely as that of men. But that day is not today. So, we press on.

Even the monthly commemoration of women’s history in America is relatively new.

While the celebration can trace its beginnings to the first International Women’s Day held in March 1911, there was no significant weekly or annual monthly recognition in the United States until 1987.

It was President Jimmy Carter who, by proclamation in 1980, created National Women’s History Week. Subsequent presidents followed suit. But it wasn’t until 1987 that Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month.

It has taken centuries for the significant contributions of women to be recognized at all. There are those who would argue that one month of acknowledgement is better than none at all. Many would readily agree.

There are good things that result. There is heightened awareness, which is a great thing for little girls to see the many possibilities there are for their lives. The programs and commemorations serve as reminders to all — men, women, boys and girls — of the abilities of women and the unswerving appreciation and respect they deserve.

However, during Women’s History Month, we often find the same names and faces remembered, honored, exhibited and discussed in classrooms and community programs year after year. What about all those other women who go unrecognized?

Women have made and continue to make significant contributions, generation after generation, to American and world history. They continue to do so in every aspect of our daily lives, beginning with the priceless, irreplaceable role of motherhood. And it expands in every direction from there.

In 2022, there are very few areas, professions or important roles in our society that women are not fulfilling and fulfilling them as well as men. But is it being captured in the history books and taught as part of American history as it rightfully should?

One could ask why do the inequities, marginalization, disrespect and disregard continue?

We need to dispense with a few misconceptions.

For centuries and across generations, a lot of misunderstanding, resistance and obstruction that women have faced and endured, and continue to do so, in their quest for equality have been based upon the misguided notion that women want to be men.

Women do not want to be men. What they want, have fought for and continue to fight for are equal access to an education, equal pay for doing the same job, equal respect and freedom from sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the home and in the workplace.

To achieve equality, why must women deny, minimize or marginalize their womanhood, the things that make them uniquely female? Men do not have to change, alter or change their essence as they seek to have access to educational and job opportunities. Why should women?

Fifty years ago, women, through the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, were fighting to gain equal access and equal opportunity in the workplace. They wanted to be recognized for their abilities to be more than sex objects, housewives and mothers.

While gains have been made in women having access to more job opportunities and breaking out of many stereotypical roles in the workplace, they still have a long way to go when it comes to receiving equal pay, promotion to senior/CEO level positions and corporate board representation.

During the fight to gain equality and respect for their abilities, many times women have had to project attributes —from dressing to speech — to prove they are just as smart, just as capable as men. Women do not want to be men. They want to be themselves and not be penalized or degraded for it.

The #MeToo movement seeks to end sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

Equality between men and women need not be an adversarial endeavor. One need not gain at the expense of the other. Mutual respect for abilities, positions, and contributions can be beneficial for all.

Men and women can work together with mutual respect and share in the benefits of equal treatment across the board without losing identity that is uniquely theirs.

So, what are some take-aways as we come to the close of another Women’s History month?

Did your knowledge, understanding, and appreciation increase about the roles women have played in society since creation and more importantly since the founding of America?

Does this new awareness inspire a change in perception and behavior as you interact with the girls and women in your life—at home, in the workplace, in your daily encounters?

Is this month-long celebration a source of inspiration to bring about meaningful change to correct the systemic disregard, disrespect and inequities that are played out daily?

We know that one month is not enough to cover the myriad of contributions women have made and continue to make every day in this nation and in all society.

So, if the commemoration doesn’t serve to inspire and motivate us to work toward improving the conditions and positions of all women, why have we bothered?

Simply to run through the paces, assuage some guilt momentarily, to give license and comfort to continue as usual the disregard, the marginalization, the disrespect?

We hope for progress in the days, months, and years ahead.

Or will the contributions of women be forgotten, dismissed, until the next Women’s History Month?

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.