If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that each morning I do a series of “this day in women’s history” tweets, marked with the #wmnhist tag. What you might not know is that each morning I open ten different tabs in a window to comb through pages and pages of HIStory to find the couple of morsels pertaining to women that wind up on my Twitter feed.
I started doing this Twitter thing a little less than a year ago and I didn’t initially mean for it to be a regular thing. Frankly, I looked up women’s history for myself on days I felt I could go no further, claw no harder against overwhelming inequalities in their overlapping, insidious forms that just keep popping up all over. I looked up the lives of the women before me because I needed to know that women before had faced obstacles seemingly as insurmountable (and most often much more so!) and come out triumphant. I looked up the lives of the women before me because I needed their sisterhood, their guidance, their solidarity, their example.
The more I did this, the more I realized how much of my history as a woman I’d been denied – I would have seen myself as so much stronger so much sooner had I been taught about the goddess religions, the matrilineal cultures, about the female warriors and peace makers, business people and inventors, healers, scribes, and artists. The more I was nourished by my history, the more I realized sharing the lives and voices and stories the patriarchy wanted silenced and disappeared was a revolutionary act. (And no, this is not an original thought – reappearing women’s history has been a feminist project for years. There’s just nothing like your own mind-blowing, wonderful and sometimes enraging “AHA!”)
BUT. I’ve realized this year of hunting down women’s history facts that the “women” in that phrase are most often white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, and Western. Just as women have been mostly left out of the broad discourse we call “history,” women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled and non-Western women (and women living within all the intersection thereof) have been further marginalized, mostly left out of or tossed in as an afterthought in feminist attempts to add women to existing history.* This is as damaging as leaving women out entirely, servicing kyriarchy by silencing the very voices deemed most threatening and marginalizing the women most threatened due to that fact. These women, ALL women, have a valiant and complicated history – one that women and men of all identities would be better served by knowing.
All these words are to say that the ten sites I go to a day that celebrate mostly privileged white women don’t cut it. I want a real women’s history. I need it and so do a lot of other women and men. It shouldn’t be radical to want ALL women to get equal and deserved credit for adding to this planet we share but it is right now so I’m calling this the Radical Women’s History Project. What that means is that every day this year, starting on January 1st, 2011, I’m scouring the internet and books and any other source I can find to chronicle the lives and the accomplishments of the world’s women, explicitly centering women of color, indigenous, queer, trans, disabled, and non-Western women, and I’m posting them here for whomever would like to use them.
Let’s face it – this isn’t going to be easy. For one, most of the easily available sources focus on that white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, Western woman. And two, perhaps more importantly, the woman spearheading this project claims most of those privileges in the previous sentence – I only speak one other language (Spanish, badly) and my privileges has certainly made me blind to some sources that are right there in front of me. So I need your help. Send me sites that chronicle daily women’s history. In whatever language, I’ll get it translated. Send me one fact on one date with a source. Go do some digging in your library and send me book titles. Tell your professor there’s this obsessed girl on the internets doing this thing and ask if they could please share their research. Ask your mom and grandma and your great-grandma to reach back and think of the women who stood out in their lives.
I believe with all my heart Gerda Lerner, a pioneer of women’s history, when she says “women’s history is the primary tool for women’s emancipation.” And I believe that means ALL women and this collective history is not only the key to women’s emancipation but a primary resource for all men and women and those who don’t identify with this arbitrary thing called gender in our journey toward whole humanity. So, I invite you, let’s see where this journey takes us, together.
* There are wonderful notable exceptions that I know about in English, mostly by feminists and womanists of color. Alice Walker’s In Search of My Mother’s Garden is a beautiful examination of not only Black women’s history but what an effect searching for and discovering one’s feminine lineage has on the searcher. Audre Lorde also explored Black women’s history, in her poetry and while sorting out her relationship to her mother in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Paula Gunn Allen wrote the feminine back into Native American history with her book Sacred Hoop: Rediscovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions.