Reframing Women’s History Month
Governor Ann Richards and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in 1991 courtside at a University of Texas Longhorns women’s basketball game. They are two of my sheroes who would be applauding the messages in this piece. Photo credit-Susan Sigmon
I would like to rename Women’s History Month to call it ‘Dismantle White Heteronormative Patriarchy Month’. Actually, if I had my way, we would name every day this way!
Four years of an unabashed misogynist racist president underscored the pandemics of structural racism and sexism embedded in our history. And not just four years with the former President, but also structural racism and sexism which has been deeply entrenched for centuries and practiced by the power brokers in business, finance, government — pretty much everywhere. Therefore, I declare that focusing on history — women’s history or Black history — is not nearly enough. Instead, we ought to explicitly be focusing on being pro- Black, pro-Indigenous People of Color while addressing white supremacy and homophobia directly in our families, communities and workplaces.
It is beyond time that we insist on talking about how society has not invested in lifting up womxn (this spelling is inclusive of trans and non-binary women) nor ensuring all girls can be strong, smart, and bold. In many cultures, womxn are still treated as decorative objects or chattel. In the United States, marriage remains an institution constructed on the tenets of ownership. Additionally, we’ve only had 55 years of womxn being able to obtain a line of credit . And current statistics on the show white womxn only own 32 cents to a man’s dollar; Black womxn mere pennies.
This isn’t history, this is NOW. This is white heteronormtaive patriarchy and it needs to be called out as such.
So I am suggesting that we rename Women’s History month to ‘Dismantle White Heteronormative Patriarchy Month’ by committing to the peaceful confrontation of white supremacy EVERY DAY. We need to move from reflection of the past to smart, ambitious action now.
I sat on the Board of the Women’s Funding Network 15 years ago and at that time the organization introduced critical strategies of social change: a shift in definition, a shift in engagement, a shift in behavior, a shift in policy, a shift in upholding policy, and investing in infrastructure of movements/organizations.
The first step is purposefully renaming or offering a shift in definition. You already know my suggestion! We then have to upset, object, name, speak, insist, confront — take at least one specific action every day — to build fierce momentum that stops toxic white male control of humxns. Only then will liberation be possible. We must become abolitionists who explicitly advocate for the removal of racist and sexist practices that plague society. We must become liberators also for willing white men and all people who have created and/or enabled heteronormative patriarchal behaviors and worldview. And we need to focus on education and engagement for these shifts to happen.
All men must become comfortable with womxn showing up with sensuality, success, partnership, equality, and wisdom in all domains — private and public. Men can and must step up their own role sharing of the caregiving of family and home life — one of the plusses of COVID is the increased opportunity for this effort. In order to shift behavior, men must reject male tribalism, the status quo and call out their brother’s abuse and harassment.
The hard work of defining what we want to see as the outcome of living in an abundant, prosperous, belonging mindset has begun. We need to take it out of our small circles and amplify it into the public domain. Here is a start; I envision a world where:
All womxn are treated with respect.
All womxn are honored in expressing their sexuality and/or gender expression.
All womxn feel safe in their bodies and in their homes, in public spaces and at work.
All womxn can compete and celebrate their ambitions un-filtered or unhindered by stereotypes, threats or biases around what they can or cannot do.
Womxn are thriving in leadership positions across industries and markets. As teachers and mentors, as entrepreneurs, as presidents and vice presidents of banks and professional associations, universities and foundations. As athletes, as sisters, as friends, as moms, as activists — expressing our full potential and in the process, healing the world’s problems like hunger and conflict, advancing technology, evolving agriculture, etc. With the devastating effects of COVID on Black Indigenous Womxn of Color (BIWOC) and their economic security , now more than ever we need to optimize our impact by using an intentional gender and racial justice lens in policies, moving money and talent development. We need all hands on deck to disrupt the patriarchy and its corrosive influence holding our world back from optimizing 50% of humanity.
COVID-19 normalized the term and usage of ‘pandemic’,and has now accounted for more deaths in this country than World War I, World War II and Vietnam combined. Wow! This health pandemic (I am ignoring the inept leadership shown by the previous president and his administration in handling COVID at its onset) has taken over our daily lives in all communities, but has hit our communities of color the most. Adding COVID’s impact to the effects of the additional pandemics of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, xenophobia, climate injustice, animal abuse and all other-isms, and there is little question that we are living in a perfect storm that threatens to overwhelm us if we don’t commit to acting every day to defeat these oppressions and their leaders.
In order to disrupt the patriarchy, we have to engage all, not just some people, regardless of political partisanship. We were all born from a woman’s womb, everyone. We can collectively nurse the generational wounds, heal past trauma, and resource marginalized womxn. We invite and encourage, and where invited, resource womxn to own their physical power with the radical practice of self-care because if we cannot care for ourselves, we cannot care for our families, nor our sisters, nor the planet.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde
Womxn have real internalized shame (and economic disparity from the historical experience of being systematically repressed) around money and one’s worth. For Black womxn that sits on top of the terror of centuries of shooting, lynching, dismissing, violating, and owning of Black people’s bodies — their children, partners and community. Brown womxn in this country are asked daily to legitimize their ‘legality’. Queer womxn are turned away from housing and jobs simply because of how they look. Indigenous womxn are not even recognized for their culture or nurturing of the land.
If you can’t fully get behind the name change to ‘ Dismantle White Heteronormative Patriarchy Month,’ consider celebrating the month of March (Women’s History Month) by giving up patriarchy like Kristin Hull for a period of time! Learning about, promoting and donating a stretch gift to groups led by Black, Brown and Queer womxn doing the hard work of liberation for all is also strongly encouraged. Own your inner feminist and let them out to play — we need everyone on the team! In closing, please consider supporting any of the below organizations who are working to dismantle white heteronormative patriarchy every day.