Think back to your high school's United States history book: Remember that tiny paragraph on the women's suffrage movement? The one-sentence descriptions on the contributions of Rosalind Franklin to the discovery of DNA, Coretta Scott King to the civil rights movement, and Eleanor Roosevelt to the New Deal policies? The absence of LGBTQ-identified women and women of color in the paragraph about the 1960s "second-wave" women's movement?
We at Women SPEAK want to change that.
Based in Los Angeles, Women SPEAK is an organization that empowers young women to cultivate positive body image, deconstruct gender media stereotypes, and lead change in their communities. Our latest project? Redefining history into HerStory.
History has narrowly framed accomplishments, success, and innovation in the context of *his* story, mainly stories of men. We see this truth all around us: for example, in the absence of women on our currency and in the few women that are honored in commemorative spaces and public places. Women are absent in the public narratives of history in the United States and around the globe. The literal erasure of women in history has affected our perceptions of who woman are and can be.
What are the consequences? Our present reality. The absence of women in our retelling of history is seen in the gender disparity of our everyday lives. Today, women represent only 19.4% in our congressional legislature. During the 2014 Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case ruling, an all-male majority overruled the voices of all three female Supreme Court justices by exempting certain employers from providing birth control and contraception coverage through the ACA. Moreover, in spite of women graduating at a higher rate from college than men, women in the U.S. workforce face a plethora of issues: gender discrimination, a gender pay gap, and no mandatory paid maternity leave --- all piling reasons that deter women from attaining positions of leadership and influence today.
Progress does not mean success. We want to change that.
We at Women SPEAK want to be part of reclaiming history to press for our stories as women and girls. This year, we're launching HerStory at our 2nd Annual Women SPEAK Girls' Leadership Summit, a conference that seeks to empower current and future generations of high school and college students to join our movement. HerStory is a yearlong initiative that will reclaim the historical and current contributions of women around the world through monthly production of HerStory literary zines, a yearlong mentorship program curriculum through our Women SPEAK national high school and college chapters, social media campaigns, and advocacy projects with local women's rights organizations.
Through HerStory, we want to demand more from our history books and education.
We seek to retell, recreate, and reclaim the powerful stories of women who have been critical in the formation of our world, our stories, and our communities --- the stories that have for far too long been minimized, silenced, and forgotten.
We seek to redefine history through the critical lens of HerStory, a movement that not only seeks to re-envision the past, but pave a future in which women are valued equally to their male counterparts. By educating the young women of today, we hope to inspire them by telling the stories of the women before them who have created a path.
We at Women SPEAK are starting a revolution to shift our understanding of how women have changed and are changing the world.
This revolution will not be televised.
The 2nd Annual Women SPEAK Girls' Leadership Summit will be held on Saturday, July 11 at California Polytechnic State University Pomona's Bronco Student Center. All high school students and incoming college freshmen are invited. Registration is free. To sign up, go to www.womenspeakteam.org.