Women’s History Month brings me to a place of deep ambivalence. On the one hand, the drumbeat of stories of women throughout history who accomplished greatness, often in spite of (and sometimes to spite) patriarchal structures is breathtaking and inspiring. Women are fierce and wondrous, and yet our stories are contextualized and categorized out of a canonical “real history,” which consists of men in politics, war, economics, and theology. And this is a loss not only to women and girls today and to come who look for guidance from and community with our foremothers, but also to a society that is in desperate need of a different narrative.
On the other hand, whose stories are we hearing? Far too often we hear the stories of women who ascend to heights in a society in which the rungs of the ladder have been assigned by men. We hear of women who wield kyriarchal power as deftly as any man and are held up as exemplary for it. When we reach back for our foremothers in March, are we getting stories that celebrate us as women, or are we getting fed a narrative of success written by and for patriarchy?
Women’s History Month makes me think of Sojourner Truth’s question, “Ain’t I a woman?” Rarely is the question of who gets to sit at that table placed in such stark relief as March’s parade of white, cisgender bodies lauded as ‘successful women.’ Historically, Black women, trans women, lesbians, and other women-loving-women, laborers, sex-workers, and many other classes have been – tacitly or explicitly – excluded from the category “woman.” Are these stories being centered this month?
Lastly, as a trans woman, Women’s History Month is a time to tighten up my block lists on social media. It’s a time to watch the debate over my existence heat up in public discourse. And it leaves me wondering whether my presence here will derail discussion into a referendum on my identity.