POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 31, 2011
This is the last of 31 days carved from the year to acknowledge contributions and accomplishments of women.
Women’s History Month draws out ambivalence.
Not to get all Gloria Steinem, but designating fewer than five weeks out of 52 to give attention to achievements of the females of the human species seems a tad chintzy. In any case, noting history through gender looks right past the fact that neither men nor women would have been able to fulfill, as well as fail, without each other’s participation and presence.
But if highlighting women’s attainments and undertakings informs and educates, if it can help remove barriers that still confront women, then special recognition is worthwhile.
Women’s history narratives brim with firsts, the ones who made the initial leaps over obstructions placed before them because of their sex.
When Geraldine Ferraro died on the last Saturday of this assigned month, she was hailed as a trailblazer, the first woman to be nominated for high public office in the United States, chosen as the vice presidential candidate for a major political party. Elizabeth Taylor, who died the previous Wednesday, was the first female actor to be paid $1 million to make a movie. In Hawaii, Linda Lingle is often noted as the first female elected governor.
If history is the focus, March also brought before the Supreme Court a lawsuit that could become the largest employment discrimination class-action case in the United States. The suit could involve as many as 1.5 million women seeking back pay from Walmart Stores, whose biased practices, they claim, resulted in fewer promotions and less pay than for their male counterparts.
Though the court will not determine the discrimination claim, but rather the more technical matter of the certification of class-action status, a favorable ruling will set a marker for women’s status in the workplace.
The status of women in the larger society was dealt a setback in this month by a new South Dakota law that requires indoctrination sessions for women seeking an abortion at anti-abortion “clinics.” The law intrudes on the rights of women to make their own choices privately, without being lectured by a person who has no medical or other defined qualifications, except that they oppose abortion. It also requires a three-day waiting period, making no exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
Absent from the law are provisions for the men who impregnated the women. Should they not be counseled about the risks of unprotected sex and the possibility of unwanted pregnancies? Should they not be made fully aware of their responsibilities?
After all, making babies, like history, requires participation of both men and women.
Cynthia Oi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.