By C. Aileen Blaine
Since 1985, March has been a nationally designated time of recognition and celebration of women. A variety of events to commemorate are taking place in the Mahoning Valley.
Amanda Fehlbaum, associate professor of sociology, said Women’s History Month is important in acknowledging that there are more faces behind history than what is often taught in school.
“So much of the celebrated and taught history in the U.S. schools is focused on the people and events that place men — especially white men — at the center,” she said. “Women have made important contributions to our country and our world.”
Women’s History Month first began as a week of celebration in March, 1982. With a series of congressional resolution propositions and presidential proclamations, the week was extended to span the entirety of March in a celebration of women’s contributions and achievements throughout history.
Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, professor of public affairs and urban studies, said it’s important to highlight the accomplishments and contributions women make to society.
“As a woman who has faced discrimination and has been belittled, it is great to see accomplishments of myself and other women that crush stereotypes,” she said.
This year’s theme under the women’s and gender studies department focuses on exploring cancel culture, which is the idea of removing support for public figures in response to problematic opinions or behavior. According to Fehlbaum, social media has become a way for marginalized communities to voice their issues publicly, but now some claim that cancel culture has run amok and is ruining lives.
“But is anyone really truly canceled?” is the topic of debate.
At 6 p.m. March 17, Treva B. Lindsey — a women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor from The Ohio State University — will deliver a keynote address exploring concepts of intersectionality, violence against women and other topics. The free event will be held virtually and in-person with limited seating.
The concept of intersectionality — the acknowledgment that individuals can belong to more than one marginalized community — is a tool used to look at the historical context of issues to continue the fight against inequality and oppression among systematically disadvantaged or ignored groups.
“Black women in particular have not only led the charge on many actions for social change, but are also most likely to have their contributions ignored or glossed over,” Fehlbaum said.
Recently, the conversation of opening up opportunities for women has reached the executive branch of government. According to a White House webpage, March 8, 2021, saw an executive order by President Joe Biden establishing the Gender Policy Council within the White House. The GPC works in tandem with other policy councils to advance gender equity and equality. It differs from previous administrations’ councils — such as former President Barack Obama’s Council on Women and Girls and Bill Clinton’s Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach — as it’s the first freestanding policy council encompassing the rights of individuals of any gender.
“It is important to have Women’s History Month and continue to celebrate it so that we can draw attention to the people, places and events that shaped us and continue to shape us,” Fehlbaum said.
Jackson Leftwich said it’s vital to recognize and highlight the accomplishments of women in fields predominantly dominated by men, such as mathematics, engineering and law enforcement.
“We need to recognize accomplishments and change the narrative to let everyone know that they can all make history and contribute to society,” she said.
Upcoming YSU women’s and gender studies department events are as follows:
- March 17: Keynote address by Treva B. Lindsey, 6 p.m.
- March 23: Penguin Peer Educator, 12 p.m.
- March 24: “50 Years of Title XI: Why it Still Matters,” 12:30 p.m. Debartolo Hall room 132
- March 24: League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown Women’s Hall of Fame, 6 p.m. Youngstown YWCA
For more information or to register to attend, visit wgs.ysu.edu