National Women’s History Month



By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

National Women’s History Month is upon us. Again. Every March, it has been, since Congress made it so in 1987.

Frankly, I wish we were over and done with it. I wish I could be over and done with Women’s History Month, but I cannot. Because the women in my life — two-thirds of my siblings, half of my friends, all of my maternal unit and my most precious and only offspring — and all the women far beyond my life, exist in a world still dominated by male leaders whose decisions are, well, lacking to say the least. Even a superficial skim of the last decade — the last week! — reveals some stunningly low-hanging idiots.

From Osama Bin Laden’s schizophrenic decision to conquer the infidels by flying planes into symbolic buildings full of people to George W. Bush’s decision to punish Saddam Hussein for deciding to dis George’s daddy to the Taliban’s decision to maim and murder Afghan girls for attending school to presidential wannabe John Edwards’ decision to repeatedly lie to the entire world about his fruitful extramarital affair to Vladimir Putin’s decision to add his prime ministerial whine to Russian skater Yevgeny Plushenko’s ungracious failure to win Olympic gold to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s decision to declare a jihad against Switzerland for banning the building of minarets to the primary advocates of the ban who decided a bigoted national ballot initiative would take care of scary Muslims to AIG CEO Robert Benmosche’s decision to let it slip to the Securities and Exchange Commission that AIG might need more bailout bucks; idiots, every single male one of them.

Of course, women make bad decisions, too. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see what errors women make were we to demand access to the same decision-making powers men have enjoyed since priestesses fell out of favor. But we don’t, and therein lies the problem.

In a nation where the published history of women is so sparse as to require special curricular materials and a designated month during which schools might choose to teach women’s accomplishments and influences, women are not up in arms en masse demanding equal anything. In fact, that women’s history is recognized with a token month is testament to the inclination of too many of us to quietly acquiesce to the token nature of the positions we hold in our textbooks, our politics, our boardrooms and our religions. Even in our families, where it is sometimes worse: I think of the men I know who treat women like nothing more than warm watermelons — and who have fathered daughters. What, oh what, are they teaching their girls? Can they possibly believe their daughters are not privy to the misogyny they spew into the world?

My own daughter is a multi-ethnic creature of olive skin, wildly spiraled hair and black eyes that shift from playful adoration to demonic fire in the flash of a mood swing. She is an amalgam of the women who came before her and those who influence her today. She is the unconventional grandmother wordsmith who deflects life’s frustrations with naughty limericks; the brilliant teacher cum older sister who reads a fabulous future in my daughter’s stars; the Puerto Rican abuela who wrapped fitful fingers around the heartbroken prayer beads of a forsaking God; the mother of ignorance who ignites at the sight of books she’s too frightened to read; the persistent smile of youth staring from obituaries and imagined in heaven taking a happy toke; the girlfriends who love her even when she first wakes up and when she’s down; the domineering Southern Baptist matriarch who went to her properly understated grave firing foreign epithets dredged from an exotic adolescence; the anxious mother who rails at the thought of her daughter thwarted for her gender, stymied by an idiot male-centric system simply by virtue of her body parts.

From these women, my daughter will glean all she is able, the vast and colorful textures of the women whose paths led to hers — and the men who’ve unselfishly loved her. And whom she ends up will perhaps be celebrated during National Women’s History Month in years to come, although that would indeed be sorrowful.

Far better that my daughter — our daughters — would be recognized year-round in standard issue textbooks.

©2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt