Today is International Women’s Day. God save me. Please do not misunderstand, I’m not against the holiday or the sentiment behind it. As a woman, it would be a bit ridiculous if I was. But I think I may disagree with it in principle.
During the year I spent in grad school (before I realized the potential job opportunities for a history grad student did not balance the loans it would take to achieve it), I immersed myself in British history of the 1800s. This time period, from Regency to Victorian, is my passion. I adore it. I’m not particularly sure why, but I believe it stemmed from my love of the literature of the time. And as books often reflect reality, I wanted to know the reality of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and so on. In grad school, I was finally able to focus on that passion. The more I studied, the more I found myself looking into the lives of women during that time. Their struggles, frustrations, advances, and successes were interesting to me. My advisor nudged me towards feminist and gender historiography, and I loved it.
As someone who is not a feminist in the contemporary sense, I had avoided feminist and gender historical theory for as long as I could. I didn’t want to hear historian after historian whine about how women were underrepresented in history. We already know this. You only need to take one American history class in high school to realize there is an obvious lack of women in the history books. So while my grad student self may have been leery of feminist studies, gender studies were welcomed. My favorite part about gender studies? It wasn’t limited to women.
Feminist historians claim that there are specific experiences in history that only affected women. Certain circumstances, whether political, social, or economic, that were particular to the lives of women. I would agree. The sexes operated in their own worlds, kept separate from each other. But if this is true, wouldn’t it also be fair to say that there were some experiences that were particular to men? A feminist who says no to this obviously needs to do a refresher course on history from any time period and any region.
I’m not saying that women’s history should be ignored. I spent months studying, researching, and writing about it. I believe it is a viable and necessary topic in history that often is pushed to the side. But the problem I had increasingly was that many believe that women’s history needed to be separate from men’s history. That in order for the plight of women to be understood, men needed to be removed so women could shine.
Any time you begin to remove specific things from the historical record, anytime you begin to reorganize the facts for a specific story, you are revising history, but not in a good way. Feminist and gender historians absolutely hate when women are taken out of history books, narratives, monographs, documentaries. Women hate when their stories are ignored. Might is be a bit hypocritical then to favor the removal of the men in favor for the women’s story?
The implication that men and women cannot tell their history together is frustrating. The suggestion that one is more important than the other is untrue. And the society that cannot reconcile the two, that cannot allow the history of men and women to live in harmony, is failing.
God created man. He saw that man needed a partner, so He created woman. Woman was created second, but she was not less important. God never told her she was less than man, an after thought, an extra. She was created with purpose: to end man’s loneliness on earth. In this way, man and woman were to come together, to marry and become one flesh (Gen 2:24). Man was not supposed to become part of the woman, not was woman to become part of the man. They were to become part of each other, to live as one in harmony and equality.
The idea behind International Women’s Day is that women need a special day to celebrate being women. We need to raise awareness of issues that affect women. We need to show our support for the women around the world who are in need and need relief. We are come together on this day and work together and see how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve accomplished. We invite the men to celebrate with us and see what we’ve become.
Did you know there is an International Men’s Day? I was blissfully unaware of this fact until I looked it up this morning out of curiosity. Such a day does is exist and takes place on November 19, the day Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address. Men also have a day to celebrate them. But are we aware of it? Is it widespread, acknowledged, appreciated? Do women take part, recognizing the many things men have done in history? Or do they call it sexist, unnecessary, superfluous?
In Galatians, Paul urged the people towards unity saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). We are one, one body in Christ meant to serve and honor and glorify Him. We are all people, equal in His eyes, and our sex or gender doesn’t matter to Him. Why why does it matter so much to us? Why must we have a day to celebrate ourselves, but to do so separately? Why must our history be separate, our literature be separate, our art be separate? Why would we purposefully create more divisions between us, when it is clear such divisions were not intended?
I am a woman. I am proud to be so. I am proud of what women have accomplished and how far we have come throughout history. I am proud that we can come together to help those of us who need support. I am proud to be a part of it. But I am also proud of men. I am proud of they have accomplished throughout history. I am proud of what they have had to take on, because society demanded it of them. I am proud of both men and women. Why must we designate one day to dwell upon it? Shouldn’t everyday be a reminder of all of the things we have accomplished and achieved on earth? And shouldn’t we celebrate together, not separately? Shouldn’t we be proud of each other? After all, we are all just people. Let’s celebrate in unity the accomplishments of the entire human race, rather than half.