Like Black History Month, Women’s History Month began as a week long celebration. Though this national dedication began in 1981, before being extended to a month in 1987, I have no memory of women’s history being marked until the mid-nineties–and even then, I thought it was a reactionary effort to somehow challenge February as a month set aside to honor and acknowledge black American men and women. It’s interesting that even while I attended an all-girls high school, Women’s History Month was never acknowledged in any way; I’m not sure why. Certainly my high school didn’t diminish women’s work, labor, talent, skill, and ideas…maybe they just assumed that the school itself paid homage to women’s strengths and capacities.
From what I’ve observed, celebrations of Black History Month tend to be celebrations that list black achievements and as I’ve listened to radio commentary that acknowledges Women’s History Month, the focus appears to be on where women can work. If you know a woman or a girl and you’re not encouraging them to enter a STEM field, you’re doing them a disservice because a girl’s goal should always be on showing men that women can do what they can do…blah, blah, blah. I don’t have anything against Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, but I do think too much emphasis gets placed on how hard and difficult those fields are to master. These fields are highly remunerated and often well-respected professions so if you’re prepared to work in the STEMs, like to work in the STEMS, employed to work in the STEMs, what’s so hard about that?
I don’t have a daughter, but I know lots of little girls and I care about girls and I can never see myself becoming deeply invested in whether or not girls enter a STEM field. Instead, I think about how much emotional, psychic, and spiritual strength girls, particularly black girls, are going to need to bear the weight of all the tragedy they’re in store for through their own vulnerability or the vulnerability of their loved ones. Concentrating on preparing girls to enter a STEM field will not prepare them to watch the man who killed her son, brother, father, uncle, friend, neighbor, classmate, or cousin go free. Where a woman works may not prepare her to take in the brutalized flesh of her only son–something Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett Till’s mother and Jacqueline Johnson, Kendrick Johnson’s mother, both did; the mistrial that insulted Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis’s mother, Dominika Stanley, Aiyana Stanley-Jones’s mother had already suffered and both were reminders of what Latasha Harlin’s aunt Denise (Latasha’s mother was murdered in a nightclub before Soon Ja Du killed Latasha) endured; I’m not very optimistic about Denise McBride, Renisha McBride’s mother, seeing a better outcome than her predecessors and I’m also not sure how much their model will help her.
Many fathers, uncles, brothers, friends, cousins, and neighbors also suffered losses alongside these women, but during Women’s History Month, as I am beginning to think about it, the figure of the mother, like Michaelangelo’s Mary bearing the weight of her dead son, figures most prominently. Mary. Mary. Mary…”tell Martha not to moan.”