March is Women’s History Month in the United States. Women’s history is human history. Thinking about women’s history is really thinking about humanity’s future. The struggle for women’s rights is now being led by women of color.
Women Created Civilization
“Civilization,” such as it is, is based on farming. Given the separation of gender roles in many traditional societies, it’s widely assumed that around 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, women led the leap from hunter-gatherer culture to cultivation.
Farming created surplus which stimulated the exchange of materials and ideas through trade. We owe that to women.
The Struggle for Full Citizenship Isn’t Over
The big question is full participation in society, full citizenship. You would think that would be automatic, but patriarchal traditions have messed things up.
In the United States, women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. However the Nineteenth Amendment didn’t give women of color the right to vote.
In 1955, Rosa Parks made great strides by simply refusing to give up her seat to a White person. Her calm leadership and the work of many others led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This finally gave women of color the right to vote.
But the struggle for full citizenship doesn’t end there. Voter suppression tactics are mostly targeted at women of color. Some states with conservative governments are still making laws that make it harder for women of color to vote.
It’s hard to square our country’s claims of representative democracy with the amount of effort that goes into undermining it.
The way forward to full citizenship is full participation in society. We need more women to get educated, start businesses, and take roles in government.
Societies That Keep Women Down Can’t Compete
Women are important. We all have mothers. Many of us have sisters, daughters, wives, aunts, cousins and nieces. Contemplating women’s history is actually contemplating women’s future.
There is no good future in societies where women are held back. A glance at a map of the Gender Inequality Index produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that countries with high gender inequality are bedeviled by war, famine and poverty. Countries with more equality create better lives for all their people.
When a +2% increase in economic activity feels great and a -2% decrease in economic activity feels terrible, keeping 50% of your people from achieving their potential makes absolutely no sense. Countries cannot compete in a globalized world without maximizing the potential of all their people.
“Few forces change the world so much as education and the empowerment of women”Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, This Has Been the Best Year Ever, December 28, 2019
The U.S. Government women’s history month web site is womenshistorymonth.gov