Not only have the lives of too many of our foremothers been left out of our history texts and our collective consciousness, there are deliberate attempts to alter the curriculum for K-12 public schools that will obliterate their contributions and sacrifices. Not only will these changes make the curriculum andocentric, it will “whitewash” it.
Thanks to Betty Brink at the newly launched Ms. Magazine blog for her post “Texas Whitewashes U.S. History.”
As for women, their historical roles have pretty much been relegated to the June Cleaver stay-at-home-mom model of the 1950s, according to board member Mary Helen Berlanga, a lawyer from Corpus Christi who opposed the new curriculum. When one working group drafted a section on how World War II created opportunities for women to be employed in all kinds of industries not open to them before, the section was taken out by the board majority. When that same working group wanted to include discussions on how sex and gender roles have changed over the decades, a conservative member said that would lead to teaching about “transvestites and all sorts of people with different sexual proclivities,” Berlanga says.
Like most people, upon learning about my foremothers, their struggles and their contributions, I feel empowered and less alone. It allows me to frame my life within the social, historical and political context of patriarchy.
As quoted in Brink’s piece:
“This is frightening. … It is history as seen through the eyes of Anglos,” says Berlanga, who stormed out of the last hours of the meeting, calling her colleagues’ actions an attempt to “whitewash” history. Earlier, Berlanga had made an impassioned appeal for the inclusion of the names of just one or two of the dozens of Tejanos who died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and William Travis. She lost.
“I grew up not knowing that Tejanos (Mexicans who lived in Texas at the time of the revolution) died there,” she says. “There was nothing about them in our history books. I would have been so proud [as a child] to know that my people were heroes of the Alamo.”
To know our collective history and resonate with our group identity as members of minority groups continues to be a pivotal step in our personal and collective empowerment. With that said, it comes as no surprise that there are powerful groups operating to erase our historical presence.
It is this very calculated operation at omitting our voices and experiences that propels me to continue seeking out the names and stories of important women and men that have allowed me to enjoy the privileges that many take for granted and may be taken at anytime. To educate is to empower and that will never be a cliche.
Reality television pseudo celebrities, ultra-thin models and highly polished, high profile film stars are not the only women available for girls and women to emulate and admire. In our continued effort to bring you new sheroes, women past and present, who have made and are making incredible contributions on a political and/or cultural level, we ask you to link to the Women’s Media Center.
If you’re not in the know yet, you should be. What is the Women’s Media Center?
The Women’s Media Center makes women visible and powerful in the media. Led by our president, the former Rock the Vote head Jehmu Greene, the WMC works with the media to ensure that women’s stories are told and women’s voices are heard. We do this in three ways: through our media advocacy campaigns; by creating our own media; and by training women to participate directly in media. We are directly engaged with the media at all levels to ensure that a diverse group of women is present in newsrooms, on air, in print and online, as sources and subjects.
In college I was a Sociology major. 77% of Sociology majors are women, and 99% of the classical theorists that a Sociology major will study….are male. Except for one. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She was a breath of fresh air on a hot, windy, Weber-filled day. Not that I didn’t love Weber, and I had a brief, slightly disturbing love affair with Marx, but as a woman hearing the voices of women in history is invaluable, so hard to find, and wholly validating. So, here is Gilman…a 19th century woman working and thinking amongst all…those…men.
Gilman was a Utopian feminist, sociologist, poet, novelist, editor, activist, she created and published her own magazine “The Forerunner,” and was incredibly politically and socially active. Though a great deal of Gilman’s works are difficult to find now, Gilman’s most famous work “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) is still widely read in Women’s Studies, Literature and Sociology classrooms. It is partially autobiographical as it chronicles Gilman’s own experience with severe post-partum depression. She struggled to convince her doctors of what she knew was the problem, and truthbe told, some women still struggle with the same social and psychological ignorance (a la Tom Cruise vs. Brooke Shields).
Gilman was prescribed “the rest cure.” During which time she was restricted from leaving her room, ate very high fat foods, was only allowed an hour of “intellectual activity” per day and was instructed “never to touch a pen, brush or pencil as long as you live.” These “treatments” only further tormented her already fragile state. Her experiences turned her into a lifelong advocate for women suffering from post-partum depression, and she admonished the medical community for its avid use of the rest “cure.” Gilman mailed a copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper” to the physician that prescribed the rest cure for her! In the story, she has delusions of women behind the wallpaper in her bedroom.
Here an obvious and stirring analogy for the social state of not only the women suffering from these issues, but all women in the 19th century:
“The front pattern DOES move – and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” “Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.”
Again ahead of her time, Gilmanwas an advocate of euthanasia for the terminally ill. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1932, and in 1935 she committed suicide. Gilman wrote in her suicide note that she “chose chloroform over cancer.” She passed away on August 17, 1935. She died a sheroe (to borrow Melanie’s new favorite word!), and a icon for women struggling to live what they believe.
Kamala Lopez recently made virtual introductions stating, “you have to meet Zoe!” Kamala told me that Zoe is inspirational, dedicated and freakin rad. After I read her bio at About.com, I had to agree.
Zoe Nicholson is rad and I have a mad crush.
Who says there aren’t any feminist icons, heroic female role models and committed sheroes in our midst? She’s right here. And here. Oh, and here. She’s also featured in the documentary, March On, and her book, The Hungry Heart: A Woman’s Fast for Justice, is available for anyone and everyone to read about her courageous fight for the ERA and her 37-day fast along with 6 other women in 1982.
Suffragist Alice Paul in 1921 drafted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and it had been introduced into the US Congress in 1923. The proposed law had 3 basic sections: Section 1- stated “that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United State or any state on account of sex”: Section 2-stated-“the congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”: Section 3- stated- “this amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification”:
The legislation seems simple enough and on face value it would appear that its passage would not be too difficult. However, such was not the case, and it was not until 1972, when the Congress of the USA finally passed it. However, it needed ratification endorsement by at least 38 states before it would become the law of the land. Furthermore, a deadline was placed on its ratification, June 30, 1982. There were thirty- five states that had ratified the legislation, leaving 3 states short of the required 38. One of these states was Illinois, where Nicholson’s story and her titanic struggle transpired.
Nicholson was one of seven women, who assembled in the rotunda of the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield in May and June of 1982, and fasted only on water for 37 days. Their objective was to persuade the legislators and Americans that the equal-rights amendment must become part of the Constitution. Illinois was chosen because this state required a 3/5, rather than a majority for ratification.
In the words of the author, she was a “satyagrahi.” or an advocate of the philosophy of non-violence resistance, as practiced by Mahatma Gandhi, who had forced an end to the British Rule. When asked by reporters why was she fasting, Nicholson explained that this is the first time where she was putting her body and heart in the same place with the same intensity, and where she was not doing something useless or meaningless.
Social media has allowed contemporary feminism to flourish. It is through social media that I have created a more expansive community of feminists, activists and those seeking human rights for all people.
It is through my collaborative relationship with Kamala that I met Zoe, an inspirational beacon of light ready to share wisdom, experience and love.
You just have to look a bit. Zoe made this point clearly in her recent post, Surfing Two Waves:
To the Second Wave, who have not made the transition to the Third Wave’s ways, let me say the US Women’s Movement is alive and well. You only have to grab your board and get online, google feminist, join facebook and search for NOW or ERA. Spend a couple of hours at RHRealitycheck.org, Change.org, Feministing.com, SheWrites.com, care.org, feministblogs.org and you will know EXACTLY where the women’s movement is. There is plenty of room, jump in, the water is rad.
If I get to splash around with women like Zoe, women that have served, sacrificed, challenged, agitated and promoted change, I am in!
If you don’t know why she is important or have never heard her name, it’s time you know her and know you should.
In our quest to bring you new role models and sheroes, we bring you an excerpt from Kamala Lopez‘s post from September 2008 at the Huffington Post. Sarah Palin’s annoying and repetitive cries of “maverick” prompted Lopez to write a piece on true historical maverick, Jeannette Rankin, the subject of A Single Woman.
On a cold distant November in 1916, a true Republican maverick and reformer became the first woman elected to the United States Congress. Her name was Jeannette Rankin and as an indefatigable champion of peace, justice and equality for all, her ghost stands in stark contrast to the Republican woman being hailed today as a loveable patriot and agent of change.
Should Sarah Palin be voted into office come this November, ninety two years after Jeannette’s historic election, she may well be responsible for change: a change back to a time before the struggles of thousands of women and men succeeded in providing a framework upon which the Women’s, Peace and Civil Rights movements could weave themselves into the fabric of America.
When Jeannette Rankin ran for Congress from Montana, not only were there no women in the US government – women across the United States couldn’t vote. Three years later the nineteenth amendment was ratified granting all American women the Federal right to cast their ballot. Today more than fifty million American women are not registered. Of registered female voters in the last election, twenty two million of us didn’t bother.
It is the most painful irony to watch Palin stand on Jeannette’s shoulders in order to dismantle that which Rankin gave her life to build. At the time that Jeannette was campaigning, there were several states in which it was still legal for a husband to terminate his wife’s pregnancy without her consent. Choice and abortion are not synonyms. Choice is a word with connotations that reach far and deep into a woman’s life – her finances, her sexuality, her body, her opportunities, her control over her own destiny. Rankin believed that these choices should be available not only to all women, but to all peoples.
March is Women’s History Month! In recognition & honor of that we will be posting some pieces on historical female figures that we feel a special connection to. The first woman that always comes to mind when I’m asked that question is Simone de Beauvoir.
I was exposed to feminism for the first time when I was 19. My roommate at the time had just changed her major to Women’s Studies and – as such – was always going on about women in the military or single mothers or some other idea that at the time felt revolutionary and subversive (yeah, we felt that way in 2003). Well, I moved out and all of those crazy thoughts stagnated. I decided to take a philosophy class a year or so later.
I believe philosophy is still offered in college for one reason and one reason only – to infuse students with the drunken effects of the realization that they’re intelligent and capable of abstract thought. I loved philosophy! It was the most incredible class I had ever taken. Though, it was strange to me that we never talked about any women. I still have that text book. I remember getting to the incredibly tiny section of the book dedicated to feminist epistemology and our professor (who was a woman) telling us that it was “optional” reading. Of course, I read it.
Though she was not one of the few feminists they were focusing on, Simone was mentioned in the section by virtue of “The Second Sex.” It was not even a paragraph. They mention her long enough to quote, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” But that was enough….I was curious. I went to the library after class and picked up their copy. “The Second Sex” was originally published in 1949. It proposed such radical ideas as men creating a false air of “mystery” and “piety” around women so as to avoid understanding them or their issues (still not so far from reality today). She also maintained that women were the ultimate “Other” in society. This book is credited with starting the Second Wave of Feminism, and she its mother. What resonated with me in was her admission that she had been oblivious to these states of being for most of her life. Up until that point she had felt empowered to do whatever she wanted with her life (by virtue of her race & class standing, of course).
I read every thing I could find about she and Jean-Paul Sartre, her life-long partner & philosopher. Sartre gave her credit as being his “filter” which many have taken to mean that she not only edited his work, but also may have wholly written much of it. When you google her name much attention is paid to the relationship that she had with Sartre in part due to his fame, but also because she herself said that her relationship with him was “the greatest achievement” of her life. They were in effect the poster-couple for open relationships and polyamory. Simone had a highly publicized and passionate relationship with American author Nelson Algren when she was in the United States doing research for “The Second Sex” in 1947. (Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis are making a film about their relationship set for filming this year!)
Simone’s realtionship with Sartre has earned her a great deal of criticism and scrutiny from her fellow feminists. We can postulate as to why that is or whether or not she was happy with him, but it doesn’t really matter. She chose to stand outside of the norm and engage in a relationship that is just as radical today as it was in 1929 when she and Sartre agreed to it! She wrote autobiographies and metaphysical novels. She was active in the French feminist movement, and human rights campaigns. But, she lived in Sartre’s shadow. Even still, on the day of her death in 1986 the newspaper headlines read: “Womens, you owe her everything!”
I’m not sure what it was about her that moved me initially, but she became this ideal in my mind. A hero. Something that I had long maintained I didn’t have, didn’t want and was not seeking. But, her intellect and beauty inspired me to become a more grounded, active, and knowledgeable woman. A woman of action and thought. Her words are my personal mantra: savior et expriemer (to know and to communicate)!!
Yes, I watched The Bachelor finale last night. Jake’s final pick, Vienna, the young and controversial self-professed “princess,” got the tabloid tongues wagging. But, I’m less interested in Vienna versus Tenley or Gia or Ali than I am interested in the lack of real kick-ass role models for young women and girls. As I search the cultural landscape, with it’s endless cheaply produced (and asinine) reality show fodder, I see few female icons that contribute anything meaningful to women’s and girl’s lives as a whole.
Hawking the latest diet pill, discussing how they got their bodies back 2 minutes after baby or how they lost weight and transformed into someone entirely new and entirely better is not exactly a pro-woman message and is lacking any sense of collectivity. Unfortunately, we have too many Heidi Montags, Viennas and single gals looking for some guy to “put a ring on it” on a variety of reality shows serving up played out and unrealistic gender roles. Most young girls and women know more about celebrity dating and diet habits than they know about the women (and men, of course) who made personal sacrifices and ushered in changes that many take for granted, from voting rights to reproductive rights.
So, it is time to resurrect the Featured Feminist (see previous posts for names and information) which was an effort to bring the names, faces and lives of in-the-world feminists to light. In celebration of 30 years of Women’s History Month, we’ll be bringing you feminist bios on some of our favorite feminists through history in a continued effort to raise consciousness and banish the collective amnesia that trades real effort and change for lap dogs in pink sweaters and diet secrets.
The tireless activist that fought on behalf of the abolitionist movement, helped lead the suffrage movement, and worked with the temperance movement to ban alcohol as a way to decrease domestic violence was born on February 15, 1820.
I appreciate her steadfastness, conviction and courage. She is a shining example to all of us.
I’m so excited to introduce Lani to the blogosphere and have her join the ranks at Feminist Fatale.
Lani hails from a conservative, Christian, working-class family in Texas . These experiences have greatly shape her feminist paradigm, and motivated her to break away from the conservative dogma that was so prevalent in that community.
Lani is a writer, eternal student of sociology, philosophy, anthropology, and feminism (and, whatever else captures her attention in that moment), human and animal rights activist, and a worker bee in various forms and fashions.
She attended California State University , Northridge, and received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with an emphasis on gender studies. She will return to school in 2010 to work towards her Master’s Degree in International Studies with a concurrent degree in Women’s Studies.
She plans to do humanitarian aid work in a non-governmental organization with a major focus on these issues.
Sojourner Truth, the tireless abolitionist and suffragette, will be honored in the U.S. Capitol. Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” examined the dynamics of race, class and gender as intersecting axes of analysis and questioned the dominant image of femininity which was limited to the most elite, white women in society at that time. She was tall, recognizable figured and a gifted orater that shook the order of the day and inspired thousands.
In the words of Truth, 1851:
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
As Michelle Obama said:
“One could only imagine what Sojourner Truth, an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman — what she would have to say about this incredible gathering,” first lady Michelle Obama said at the Celebration of Truth ceremony. “We are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth.”