Well, Happy (?) Women’s History Month, everyone.
We understand our typical Women’s History Month assignment: We celebrate high-profile steps forward for women, like the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. (And we are. 100%, we are.) And we celebrate the women’s soccer team winning $24 million in their equal pay class action lawsuit. (Ditto. Also celebrating.)
But mostly, we’re watching the brave people of Ukraine defending their country — the brave women of Ukraine defending their country. And we watch knowing that it is typically women and their children who are disproportionately affected by war.
These are the more urgent headlines to pay attention to right now.
Which is how it should be. Our attention, and the world’s attention, is a finite resource that can be harnessed when urgent support and action is needed. (Although, as many voices are pointing out right now, the world doesn’t dole it out the same way for everyone.)
Before, I would have hoped that this year’s Women’s History Month headlines, at least in the US, could have focused on a key lesson first brought to our attention by sociologist Jessica Calarco: “Other countries have social safety nets. The US has women.” And the hard-won recognition that paid parental leave, and sick leave, is an investment, not a cost. (But despite the fact that 82% of people in the US are in favor of paid parental and sick leave, across political party lines, the legislation to finally put it into place was stopped by an individual white man in his 70s.)
It took two years of a pandemic to put shoring up the US’s social safety net for caregivers in the headlines. Who knows what it will take to revive it?
In years past, this is the month when we would have been looking out for a Fearless-Girl-like publicity stunt.
And also the latest jazzy, feel-good ad campaigns about women’s empowerment, particularly the ones with precocious little girls who — you can just tell — will one day change the world, supported by XYZ Big Corporation. (Pay no attention to said Corporation’s terrible track record on advancing women; their ad sure makes you tear up.)
The thing is, when you watch those feel-good Women’s History Month ads, the implied narrative is that the advancement of women is inevitable. But this year reminds us, even more than usual, that it’s not.
When world leaders choose war, elected representatives choose stinginess, and billionaires choose to go to space, how can we muster what we need to help that plucky little girl in those inspirational Women’s History Month ads — to help women everywhere around the world — advance?
I don’t know the answers. Right now, we start with Ukraine.
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