The following is a guest post by Patrice Palmer, Director of Social and Cultural Inclusion for the CSU College of Business.
March has been designated as Women’s History Month, but why do we set aside a time to talk about womanhood at all? The unfortunate answer is that we seldom discuss the necessity of exalting and understanding womanhood within the context of history. This unmet need is further complicated – and further complicates – the standard of womanhood our society holds.
What makes one a woman?
To answer that question I have to address my own reckoning of womanhood. Yes, I was assigned female at birth. I say assigned because based on one anatomical descriptor my birth certificate read girl. I struggled for years to fit that narrative, a narrative complicated by my Blackness. Being a woman is hard, but being a woman of color? That has been my greatest challenge to date. It is not because womanhood is innately hard (but don’t let the smooth taste fool you). Womanhood is hard because of circumstance and situation. Before womanhood is measured, the skin tone of that woman is quantified and qualified and all stereotypes, biases and misunderstandings are laid at her feet.
From the top of her head to the soles of her feet she is critiqued. Her mind is made irrelevant and her physical attributes edified. From her birth to her last breath everything she does is measured through a narrow lens of respectability and assimilation. “She” is replaced by “we” and her identity fades into the societal norms of the past, present and future.
To be designated a woman is to be given the title of caregiver. Not just of one’s family, but to the world. She must carry the needs of the world above her own. Now, complicate that with dysphoria and orientation and you have a powder keg of doubt and stress that can be overwhelming. Thankfully, womanhood saved my life. I say it saved my life because I was tossed into a world that I didn’t truly understand because it wasn’t my journey. Those who identified as women taught me that I wasn’t defined by this characteristic, but it would be a part of my definition. From there, I let go of the rigidity of what I THOUGHT it meant to be a woman and instead took on a non-binary status. I’ve never felt so free.
History needs to understand women. It needs to understand womanhood. By spending more time focusing on HERstory we can empower people to tell their own stories, in a way that’s authentic to their experience, not misconceptions wrought over generations.
How we honor HERstory
In the College of Business, we celebrate women who find harmony within themselves and with others. From faculty, staff and students, even up to our very own Dean of the College of Business, women are visible and are challenging the status quo of womanhood, while creating a place of support, care and understanding for anyone who comes to our College.
Through groups like the Women in Business Association, we see our student leaders exemplify the pronoun of female and embrace their own approach to leadership. Womanhood is not something you are born into. It is something that evolves with you. For those who may not have the gender marker of female it doesn’t mean your femininity and womanhood is not honored here. We see you. We believe in you. You matter here.
To preserve our history we write it the way it was meant to be. Together we create a new HERstory that brings together all women as equals and uplifts all people inclusively.