During Women’s History Month, it’s essential to see how women have taken control of their own lives and destinies throughout history. From Suffrage to SlutWalks, women have been taking to the streets to protest and march against injustice and oppression.
It’s not easy to change the world. Yet, women have been choosing empowerment over complacency for years. Here are a few events to remember during Women’s History Month that highlight the power of women:
1913: The Suffrage Movement
Every great liberation story has a beginning. And gaining the right to vote is the first major step women took towards equality.
Time magazine reported that one of the largest protests of the suffrage movement happened in 1913.
“Between 5,000 to 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House — and hundreds of thousands of onlookers. Organizers Alice Paul and Lucy Burns had secured a permit to march, however, many protesters were assaulted by those in the crowd who opposed the women’s right-to-vote campaign.”
In fact, many women were injured in the march. Some were spat on, objects were thrown at them, and others were physically attacked. The outrage from this violence actually translated into wider support for the Suffrage movement.
1968: The ‘Bra Burning’ Miss America Protest
Nothing says empowerment quite like burning your bra. Except that no one at the Miss America Protest actually burned their bra.
During Women’s History Month, we should take a minute to understand what actually happened that day. Upset with the standard’s of beauty displayed at the Miss America pageant, women decided to protest using beauty symbols.
“As the pageant was taking place, feminists marched around the ‘freedom trash can’ in which they tossed items they perceived as symbols of feminine oppression: high heels, makeup, girdles and bras.”
According to Women’s Rights 1960, the concept of bra burning was empowering because it showed a new independence of men.
“Women burned their bras because they felt that it proved a statement or made a stand for Women’s Rights. Another reason they burned their bras was because it was a symbol that showed independence of men at the time. The women that didn’t burn their bras often walked around wearing no bra at all. This was also meant to show independence of men. Many women thought that it meant freedom to be natural instead of pushed up.”
Even though bra’s weren’t actually burned at the Miss America protest, the symbolic image of burning bra’s has survived for decades. It’s still one of the most enduring images of feminism in history.
As reported by the Washington Post, SlutWalks started after a police officer told college students “If women want to avoid rape, they shouldn’t dress like ‘sluts.”
Knowing that the name would cause controversy, or at least get a lot of attention, organizers choose to speak out with signs, but also with their clothing (or lack thereof). The entire premise of SlutWalks is debunking the myth that women are “asking for it.”
“After an 11-year-old girl in Texas was gang-raped, the New York Times ran a widely criticized story this spring that included a description of how the girl dressed ‘older than her age’ and wore makeup — as if either was relevant to the culpability of the 18 men accused of raping her.”
Wearing “slutty” clothing isn’t an excuse for any violence against women, but we still have a long way to go to overcome victim shaming. However, some women feel empowered by taking this very public stand and there are still SlutWalks every year.
2017: Women’s March on Washington
There are so many ways to honor women this month. We have fearless women politicians, athletes, scientists, and entrepreneurs. We have come so far and should always celebrate our success.
For example, a report on Grow Map explains, “There was a time when people considered even the idea of a woman running a business to be a joke. But these days, the number of women-owned businesses is actually growing twice as quickly as other startups.”
Yet, we still have a long way to go. That’s why the Women’s March on Washington, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, ignited a fire for this generation of women.
Because women know that if they want to change their world, it’s up to them.
[Featured Image by Josh Reynolds/AP Images]