HerStory is NOT Women’s Awareness Month

Spring is just around the corner, but more importantly, March marks HerStory month! As someone who has seen Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month pass by with little more than a mention of Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, I’m here to tell you that we still have time to make HerStory about, what do you know, a story. A paragraph-long biography about a female civil rights reformer can be great, but means almost nothing the next time her name is brought up and you say, “Oh, I think I might’ve read something on her once.” We as a society are missing the details and small victories that these figures have accomplished on their way to becoming (in some cases more than others) a well-known name.

What do I mean by a story? Imagine yourself as the granddaughter of a slave. You are lucky enough to receive a solid education in the public schools of Cambridge, Massachusetts, but all that changes when your family moves to North Carolina at the height of the Jim Crow era. Through sheer dedication you persevere, eventually founding a high school modeled after yours in New England. Thousands of black students can now study the classics as well as industry, and later in life you lead the black women’s suffrage movement. This was the life of Charlotte Hawkins Brown.

See what I mean? These feelings and hardships are universal, but as soon as someone mentions where a person is from or in which time period they lived, we are quick to shoehorn them as a historical figure. It’s easy to nod and think, Well yeah, that’s what the American South was like at the end of the Civil War. Black people were still being oppressed. Or,in the case of Malala Yousafzai,everyone knows that the Middle East isn’t the most welcoming  place to be right now with the Taliban there.

Once we categorize someone it becomes so much easier to write off their life as a sign of the times. We forget that many of these women were young when they first became involved in a cause, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d be ready to spearhead a revolution at 17 years old (looking at you, Joan of Arc). We forget that the adversity we face now is both universal and timeless. For example, immigration is a major policy issue right now, and the uncertainty of citizenship was similarly felt by Dolores Huerta when she led the labor movement alongside Cesar Chavez.

All these women we honor today were once people burning to make a change. Forgetting how they lived and the circumstances in which they struck out means forgetting their story. So the next time you hear about a celebrated woman, stop to remember who she was, not just what she did. Maybe someday we’ll know what it means to honor her STORY.