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Women’s History Month is a pat on the head

What’s the significance of Women’s History Month, when it’s followed shortly after by National Pet Month? It means you’re a nice thought.

The Smithsonian is commemorating Women's History Month in March 2022 by displaying 120 life-size neon orange statues depicting women who have excelled in the fields of science and technology.james edward 214.878.6008/Associated Press

The day I learned about Women’s History Month as a kid, I had mixed feelings. Part was embarrassment, almost shame, to be a girl. Looking at the boy next to me, wondering: If there’s no special need for “Men’s History Month” — doesn’t that just mean he gets all 12?

Then thinking, with an almost sick feeling: “Wait. We’re not a part of regular history?”

Those feeling haven’t changed much.

Women’s History Month has always felt to me like a pat on the head, a slice of pink cake, a generic Hallmark card (“Hey, look what you did!”) from the white patriarchy. The 12-monthers.


It’s why I shy from “Women’s History Month” pitches. “This is that time of year we think of you!” is the hollow sense they give.

I understand that certain cultures have their own specific histories and cultures that bind them when we celebrate these months. I know there are people who love Women’s History Month and they have every right to. Go for it.

But each March, we corral half a planet — all living and all dead women from throughout all time — to tell us . . . We matter despite? Seems like a broad brush.

It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate Women’s history, or Black history, or Indigenous People’s Month, or any people — it’s that no group deserves to feel relegated to four weeks a year. That’s not inclusivity. That’s isolation.

Google “Women’s History Month figures,” and you’ll see names like Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Katharine Graham, Aretha Franklin, RBG, Maya Angelou.

But these people didn’t shape “women’s history” — they shaped human history. Cute as it sounds on T-shirts, there’s no “herstory.” We share one story. We have learned to see histories through different lenses. But it’s all one prism. We just need to flatten the glass.


If we truly believe we are all made equal, all one species, evolved from apes, made of stardust, spinning together on a spit of rock through vast space, then we’d take the paper dividers down.

Women’s History Month or International Women’s Day shopping deals don’t scream “gender equality.” Scrolling through a listicle — “30 Movies for Women’s History Month” — doesn’t feel like all art is equal. (Can’t anyone watch “9 to 5″ any old time?) Ditto on streaming services’ playlists (Etta James is solid year-round).

Trying this hard to celebrate any group of humans, based on genetics or self-identity, for four weeks a year doesn’t translate to respect year-round. And that’s just facts, Jack.

(It’s why Britain’s Gender Pay Gap Bot popped up on Twitter, with the bio: “Employers, if you tweet about International Women’s Day, I’ll retweet your gender pay gap.”)

The knee-jerk reaction here is to say this is overthinking. But flip through a calendar and you could almost laugh.

February is Black History Month — it’s also National Bird-Feeding Month. March is when we’re aware of women — it’s also National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. May is both Asian Pacific American Heritage and National Pet Month

I would love to believe we’ve outgrown the need for these monthly acknowledgments of existence, but let’s take a look in the mirror — we clearly still need the reminders.

And yet.

There is still that school kid in me — half-sick to learn these prisms exist, this strange refracted light spilled across our kitchen floor.


She would love to believe we can flatten distorted glass smooth, see each other without refraction — just fellow humans sharing trips around one red sun.

Deep down, though, I know we’re not better than this. Maybe these nice thoughts, these movies, these discount coupons, are as far as we get.

The high-water mark for human equality. Our best effort.

Maybe learning your month or day is the biggest lesson to learn in America.

But what’s the significance of Women’s History Month when it’s followed shortly after by National Pet Month? It means you’re a nice thought.

Sit down and watch your movies, honey. The boys are busy shaping time.

Lauren Daley, a Globe correspondent, can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.