March is Women’s History Month, highlighting the contributions of women in events in history and contemporary society. Recognized in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, it corresponds with International Women’s Day on March 8. CV Weekly asked intern Joyce Lee to speak to high school students about the roles of women in history.
By Joyce LEE, intern
“What many people call feminism is actually a justified call for equality. Suffragettes from the early 20th century and activists in the ’60s realized this and risked their lives in fighting for the rights that were equally theirs.” Claire Wallace, junior, CVHS
Starting in the 18th century, women slowly began to shatter the Cult of Domesticity, a term used to describe the era in which the stereotypical conservative image of women was merely as domestic housewives. This period saw the emergence of suffragettes, mostly women but a few men, who advocated for the right of women to vote. Through the persistent protests, strikes, groups, and events, women were finally granted this right on Aug. 26, 1920 through the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Women did not stop when they received suffrage, though. Rather this propelled them to push forward into the 1960s feminist movement.
Women’s liberation in the 1960s was perhaps the most impactful event of women’s history in the U.S.
This period of feminism saw a wave of reforms on issues such as equal pay, labor rights, sexual harassment and rape, sexual violence, maternity leave, domestic violence, and reproductive rights. Although there were factions within the feminist community that were split by social class and ethnicity, the revolutionaries had the common goal of creating a society with gender equality.
Since the year 1987, March has been designated as Women’s History Month by the United States Congress. Since then, U.S. presidents including Clinton, Bush, and Obama have maintained the tradition of celebrating women of character, courage and commitment. Although sexism has not been eradicated, today is better for women in the U.S. than it was in the years before the 21st century. Today’s generation of women is stronger due in large part to the painstaking efforts made by women decades ago.
However, some believe that there remain unsolved issues that block the full potential of women.
“One of the largest issues today is the prevalent lie that proclaims women are subordinate, incapable, and useless,” said Crescenta Valley High School junior Rachel Achterman. “There is a lie that women and girls are nothing more than their sexual appeal; whispering heart- shredding lies … to girls in all places, especially when they do not match up to the airbrushed figures on the cover of a magazine.”
Although it is true that many of the rights of women have advanced throughout the years, some feel there is still a long path of reforms to be traveled. A common issue female high school students face is the pressure to match up to the criteria of what media defines as a perfect lady.
“A consistent problem women of all ages face today is the pressure to fulfill the role society puts on us to be perfect and blameless,” said CVHS senior Kieran O’Neill. “They expect us to never misbehave and then they judge us on the smallest mistakes. It is tough to be a woman because there is so much pressure to become the ideal woman.”
Other students questioned the validity of the notion that gender equality exists today.
“Many people seem to be unaware that women still face discrimination in male dominated areas. It is pretty obvious when you look at the fact that most upper level management jobs, such as politicians and CEOs, are males,” said CVHS junior Becky Suh. “Personally, I have experienced the effects of gender [stereotyping] in debate competitions, where in rounds when guys are assertive they are seen as confident, but girls are seen as catty and cocky.”
Still others view the controversial topics of abortion and birth control as an obstacle to women’s rights.
“Personally, I think the biggest issue for women today is that abortion is forbidden in some areas. This reveals that federal law is still preventing women from choosing for themselves,” said La Cañada High School senior Sarah Byun. “In other words, it seems as if women are controlled by the government and do not have any say in how they want to live their lives.”
“Rape is such a dark subject to touch on, which is why the media, through TV shows and music, try to portray it in a lighter way by twisting it with ‘romance.’ This allows people to feel less uncomfortable but blinds us even more to the reality of this cruel crime,” added LCHS senior Helen Lee.
The progression of women’s rights has been a long and sometimes dangerous road. History has shown that women have risked social standing, freedom and even their lives to bring this issue to light. Progress has been made in several countries including the U.S.; however, throughout the world there still remains a long list of important changes that need to be made.
“There are still many suppressions of the true rights of women – even being educated or driving vehicles. We must take up the pattern of history to give freedom to every single woman on our globe because women are powerful, needed, unique, and wonderfully made,” Achterman said.