Opinion: NYU’s Women’s History Month isn’t enough
The university’s underwhelming commemoration of Women’s History Month underscores the necessity for more substantive yearlong efforts highlighting women’s achievements and struggles.
March 29, 2022
I come from Latin America, where International Women’s Day has become a big deal in recent years. It is a day for women of all backgrounds to rally against the patriarchy and protest the femicides that are unfortunately prevalent in the region. Along with this day, the month of March serves to commemorate the feminist struggle for suffrage, equal pay, worker rights, racial justice, economic justice and so on. Feminism today must acknowledge intersectionality. Why, however, should we only celebrate women a single day or month out of the whole year?
As an incoming freshman, I was looking forward with anticipation to see how NYU would commemorate Women’s History Month. The extent of its initiatives has been underwhelming, to say the least. We all know NYU to be a university that strives for diversity and inclusivity — that strives to uplift the historically marginalized: This was a big part of why I chose to study here. However, I was very disappointed to see little to no activity on March 8, International Women’s Day, as well as zero follow-up during the remainder of March through activities, talks or any other form of empowerment.
NYU did organize some events worth mentioning: an NYU Eats campaign to highlight women chefs worldwide, a Female Founders Forum talk with female founders and investors, and an NYU Women Lead conversation with Solange Knowles. While I appreciate these events for their efforts to acknowledge the success of women across various industries, there should have been a greater number and range of initiatives spread throughout the month. NYU should have had events during the whole month, for example, an invocation drawing in women speakers from many more professional fields. They could have held sessions with feminist scholars, psychologists, writers and artist, sparking greater dialogue on the multiple obstacles women face. Along with this, NYU could have highlighted the university resources for women, for when they feel invalidated or marginalized.
What does such a lack of initiative say about Women’s History Month in general? Or that Women’s History Month is just that — a month? Women’s history shouldn’t be brought up once a year and then ignored for the other 11 months. The problems of women’s oppression and underrepresentation are multi-layered and complex and deserve daily acknowledgment. The practice of symbolic commemoration lasting a single month recurs in the recognition of other marginalized groups as well: Institutions often mobilize initiatives to highlight queer, Black and Indigenous people for a single month of the year and then proceed with their usual ignorance and oppression.
While it is nice to have that month out of the year to highlight solely women’s feats, it is not enough, as seen in the example of NYU. Hopefully, one day we won’t need a once-a-year reminder that these groups are still oppressed and that we should do something about it. NYU should be more proactive and vocal in creating a yearlong recognition and empowerment of women in the community. Such sentiments shouldn’t be limited to one day or one month out of the year. The same goes for any commemorative month.
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Contact Valentina Plevisani at [email protected]