Women rewriting an ’intersectional’ history

Students and faculty members discuss the importance of National Women’s History Month.

Media studies and production instructor Kristine Weatherston said she began to identify as a feminist in high school when she tried to audition to be a greaser in the musical “Grease,” but was told she was not allowed to audition for a male part.

When she went to college and started taking women’s studies classes, she began to understand more deeply the discrimination against women as well as the “race disparity within the gender discrimination,” she said.

“How easily we forget history,” she said. “How easy it is to forget that white women couldn’t vote until 19[20], and that women died and were beaten for that.”

“[But] history isn’t about white women, but all women,” Weatherston added. “Black, brown and every color in between. We can look at history from all these different lenses and it gives us this breadth and this space to do that and to expand our knowledge. … We can rewrite it as an intersectional history.”

March is National Women’s History Month, dedicated to celebrating the legacy and accomplishments of women throughout history. According to the National Women’s History Project, an organization that started in 1980 to “[write] women back into history,” this year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” The theme is meant to acknowledge that “women have always worked, but often their work has been undervalued and unpaid,” according to its website.

“As a full-time working mom, I believe that when women do better, everyone does better,” Weatherston said. “So if I make the same amount of money as the men that I work with, that means that I can take care of my family better and that means that my son is being provided for in a different way.”

“That means that he sees his mom working and getting paid what she’s worth,” she added. “And then I am raising a generation, a son that is a feminist and will fight for the same things that he sees me fighting for and working for every day.”

To celebrate Women’s History Month, a group of Paley librarians hosted the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on Friday. This was the second time that Temple and other universities nationwide hosted the event, which was organized by Art+Feminism, a global organization made up of librarians, students, scholars and artists who work to bring inclusive narratives about art and feminism to Wikipedia.

Less than 10 percent of the content on Wikipedia was created by people who identify as women, so Friday’s edit-a-thon is meant to organize women and help them add to the website. Librarian Kristina DeVoe said this gender gap not only provides skewed perspectives, but also misses an entire world of topics, like the focus of Friday’s event: Philadelphia women within the art world.

Jill Luedke and DeVoe, two librarians from the reference and instructional services department at Paley, agree that it’s empowering to create a Wikipedia page about a local woman’s work.

“You can contribute to Wikipedia and that’s your mark on the world,” DeVoe said. “I think part of [Art + Feminism] is increasing awareness of those kinds of women that might have disappeared into the digital sphere. You can write them back into history, so to speak.”

Other feminist organizations on campus, like the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, think one month is not enough to recognize the entire history of a gender.

Martha Sherman, a junior public health and political science major, said women’s history is usually left out of textbooks. As the public relations chair for FMLA, she hopes to raise awareness about the contributions women have made to global society by working with two other Temple organizations, She’s The First and Generation-United Nations, to host a women’s international panel.

The panel will take place on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the women’s studies lounge in Anderson Hall. Speakers like Linda Chavers, an Intellectual Heritage instructor with a Ph.D. in African American studies, and Rorng Sorn, the director of immigrant affairs for the Philadelphia’s behavioral health department, aim to inspire women to take on roles in international advocacy.

Donnalyn Pompper, a strategic communication professor, said Women’s History Month should serve as more of a call to action than a celebration. It’s an annual reminder of the hard work gender equality requires daily, she added.

“Making all of that history fresh with women and reminding adults of the contribution that women have made is a good thing, of course,” she said. “But I can’t help but reflect on the fact that if genders were equal, we wouldn’t need to designate March as a Women’s History Month. We use the 31 days of March to draw attention to important women, but if gender equality was a reality we would have an appreciation for women and girls every day.”

Marlo Brooks, a sophomore strategic communication major and the co-events coordinator of the Temple University Black Public Relations Society, thinks Women’s History Month is important for both personal and professional development.

TUBPRS is planning an event for the end of March about the importance of personal branding for women.

Brooks said it’s inspiring and motivational for young people to see women from similar backgrounds in positions of power and sharing great ideas.

“That’s the key to the future,” Weatherston said. “It’s not about what the politicians are doing. It’s about what we are doing with boots on the ground.”

Megan Platt can be reached at megan.platt@temple.edu.

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