How come more than half of our country’s and world’s history makes no mention of important females? How come so many jobs have been labeled as ‘men’s work’? How have females become discouraged from pursuing careers in fields such as math, science, engineering, technology, politics and more?
I personally love history. It’s always been my favorite class and is usually the class that I do the best in. I think children, especially girls, realize at a young age in school that they are not being taught about historical figures that are female. How does this affect a young girl’s view on the world and herself? Does it make her believe she cannot grow up to be what she wants to be because of her sex?
Throughout my life I’ve changed my answer to age old question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I wanted to be a veterinarian or a zookeeper for a while because of my love for animals. At one point I wanted to be a paleontologist or an archaeologist, because of my fascination with dinosaurs and ancient artifacts. I even remember a time when I thought I wanted to be a teacher.
Looking back, I don’t remember why I wanted to be a teacher. At least I had reasons for my past dream careers, but I can’t remember a single one for a teacher. In retrospect, I think I said that because that was a profession in which I noticed a lot of women working in. Throughout elementary and middle school, 98% of my teachers were women. Maybe I thought I had a chance at being a teacher more so than my other aspirations simply because I noticed more women than men in the profession.
Along with these short lived phases, I have always been interested in writing. There are millions of books in print, but it seems that the majority of the most celebrated works of literature are written by men and/or have a male main character. What hope did that give me as a young girl for ever being published? Even J.K. Rowling herself had to use her initials instead of her full name to get Harry Potter published, because if a woman’s name was on the cover it could discourage potential readers.
If you’ve read my other blog posts you’ll know already that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. The first female character in any book I read that I felt like I could really relate to was in Harry Potter. I’ve read a countless number of books, but finding a relatable female character to me has always been hard. I could relate to Hermione on account of having no friends, but she’s also insanely brilliant which isn’t me. I liked Ginny, but boys liked her too and that’s not me. I found Luna to be similar to me in the way that we’re both creative thinkers who a lot of people label as weird. But the female character I loved the most was Tonks. She is quirky and funny and smart, a very cool female role model. She is a woman in a prodominently male career. Maybe it’s harder for me to find a relatable character because I’m so different, but Tonks will always be who I find myself to be.
My mom told me that I was lucky to be born when I was, because when she was a kid women were severely limited in their potential careers. When she was growing up, she could hope to be a teacher, a secretary, a nurse, a telephone operator, a waitress etc. It’s pretty mindblowing to me that my mom was in the Junior Lifeguard program the first year they allowed girls. She’s not that old. And she said that even though they allowed girls in the program, that first year there was less than a dozen of them and the other boys and coaches were very mean to them.
I know that my life as a woman now is ‘better’ than my mom’s was in the 70s, but women’s rights still have a way to go. Women still don’t get paid as much as men. The ERA is still not ratified in our Constitution. Access to birth control and women’s healthcare is still limited and expensive. America has had a black president, and yet still a woman has never been president.
Women weren’t allowed to vote in all the states until a little less than 100 years ago. Though it may seem lightyears away, the 1920s were not long ago at all. I’m very thankful for the work of the women’s suffrage movement because without it I wouldn’t have been able to vote in 2016. Women have been overlooked in history and discouraged from participating in politics. Women are told they are too emotional to be in charge of any governmental role, or simply lack the knowledge.
Even in music women are overlooked. In the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, there are less than 40 female artists inducted. 100 years from now, what women will be remembered in music compared to how many men will be remembered? I play guitar and bass and even if music is a more ‘accepting’ field, there is still the discrimination. Girls can sing, but they can’t play an instrument as well as a boy. At the local Guitar Center where I took lessons, 95% of the employees and instructors were male. I don’t understand how being a girl could in any way influence the skill level I could reach as a guitarist and musician.
Times are changing. More women are enrolled in and will graduate college. More women are in the work force. What will it take for society to accept a female surgeon, computer programmer, aeronautical engineer or mathematician? Women should not be limited in their career as much as men should not be. Every job needs to become gender neutral. A man should be able to become a nurse without scrutiny if he wants to. A woman should be able to become a politician without scrutiny if she wants to. No child’s dream should be crushed because of the ‘limitations’ of their sex.
There’s a whole separate branch of history called women’s history. It’s almost comical. There’s no ‘men’s history’, that’s just the regular old history that everybody takes. To learn about the things the government doesn’t require you to learn, you have to take a whole separate class. But no one really wants to hear about that stuff anyways, right? Who cares about women’s rights, they’re all a bunch of crazy feminists. If it was important enough, it would be built in to our regular curriculum.
March is Women’s History Month. February is Black History Month. These need to be distinguished, because the only history most people learn about is White Male History. Every month is White Male History. Hopefully one day, society will reach a point where all history is blended together and not separated by race or sex.