By Rut Martínez-Alicea
Director of Equity, People, Culture and Administration
March is Women’s History Month in the U.S. heritage calendar, and March 8 is the International Day of the Woman.
And while the heritage calendar can be a great opportunity to break with stereotypes and gain a deeper understanding and a greater perspective of our common context, it can also become a trap.
The road labored by thousands of people to create a national day if not a national month, to create space, what we call “time wedges” in the calendar — so that dominant culture is made to consider its ahistorical assumptions and patriarchal white supremacist propaganda — is paved with tears and real blood of social justice martyrs. I am eternally grateful for the labor and sacrifices of those who came before us to pave the way, to make the space to tell millions of counter-stories that shape and reshape the whole calendar, our collective experience and our shared historical context. The efforts to create these “time wedges” are driven by the active marginalization, denial and erasure of the contributions of predominantly non-white, non-male and non-heterosexual individuals and communities.
The heritage calendar is the result of courageous efforts of such communities and individuals to resist the silencing of our voices and the annihilation of our stories, our contributions, our traditions and our very lives. Still, this opportunity can also be co-opted by dominant culture and can be turned into a trap, one that instead of counter-storytelling can feed racist, sexist, and cis-sexist lies to our communities and to our individual selves, even when these lies are about our own lived-experiences. Without vigilant intentionality, the heritage calendar can be exploited to foster over-simplified “othering” narratives of, at best, exceptionalism — singular stories of accomplishments that victim-blame individuals who don’t rise to the singled individual’s achievement. These stories deny systemic oppression by attributing success to only hard work or “luck.” At worst, these are narratives of exotification — stories that make the marginalized into other-than-human and deserving of capture, “study” and abuse.
At Oregon Food Bank we are invested in honoring and observing Women’s History Month and the heritage calendar through a vigilant and intentional intersectional-equity lens. We know that the same sexism and patriarchal system that make this month still an imperative need are the same forces that drive hunger for millions of women, single mothers, Black, Indigenous, and women of color (BIPOC) and trans women.
Let’s then take a moment or two, or 30, to actively lift and make visible, to ourselves and each other, the daily laboring of all women — BIPOC women, of all abilities, all ages, all sizes and shapes, immigrants, trans, poor, caregivers, single — which through daily existence transform actions into context, and context into shared story/ history/ herstory/ our story. We lift and honor this laboring of survival, contributions, resistance, creativity, resourcefulness and visionary pioneering. We salute and honor women this month and every month and we do it with our hearts, our minds and through unapologetic and decisive actions that challenge and dismantle sexism and all root causes of hunger!