Women’s History: A Story of Diversity

Across the country millions of women share common experiences, emotions, and moments; things that affect our lives for the simple fact that we are women. Even so, women are not homogenous and issues that affect women should not be treated that way.

During the 2015 Academy Awards one key moment highlighted that reality: the acceptance speech from Patricia Arquette. I was one of the voices cheering in excitement as Arquette spoke about the need for equal rights and fair pay during her 90-second speech; both things that are long overdue. But as the cheers quieted down, my attention quickly turned to her remarks behind stage.

“It’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” – Patricia Arquette, Oscars 2015

While I’m sure that Arquette meant to challenge men and all social justice movements to take up the fight for women’s rights, the remark raised a disturbing question: what is the definition of “us” if it does not also include women of color or LGBTQIA women who have long been fighting for the same exact rights? The lack of inclusion in her statement only reminds me of the need for greater perspective in the feminist movement. A perspective that is aware of where we have been and where we need to go.

Growing up as women in United States, we are not taught the complexity of our own history in school. We are exposed to the history of merely a handful of women. These women are presented as the embodiment of who we are as a whole. As women, we are not just a handful of voices. We are a remarkably and beautifully diverse chorus.

As the feminist movement evolves, we must stay committed to not only seeking to raise the collective voice of women but also to ensuring that voice reflects the rich diversity of women. Our feminist movement must play a leading role in shaping all progressive movements to be inclusive of ALL women’s rights by highlighting the intersections of where our paths and common experiences cross.

For there to be true progress, we must be conscious of our history and that takes more than just knowing it. This Women’s History Month, we must step up to the plate and tell the stories of women on the ground who have built and continue to build movements where they previously did not exist.

We must share stories from organizations like ACT for Women and Girls in Visalia, California. ACT engages women of all ages by focusing on grassroots leadership opportunities and empowering women to raise their voices. Started from a listening session of women in their community, ACT is currently working on a pharmacy access project to survey and secretly shop local pharmacies in an effort to get the word out about emergency contraception and raise community awareness.

On the other side of the country, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), based in New York, is working to amplify the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women in the United States. NAPAWF currently has five priority areas, including: anti-human trafficking, immigrant rights, reproductive justice, young women’s leadership development and coalition building. Currently they are working on bills targeting AAPI women’s right to equal health care access.

Organizations like ACT and NAPWF provide a much needed voice to the feminist conversation. They see the problems on the ground and then work toward solutions. Their stories and others like them need to be a part of the larger feminist narrative. That is why, during this Women’s History Month, the Ms. Foundation is celebrating the stories of our grantees and the rich history and our rich legacy of supporting the success of movements to empower all women.

Originally Posted on Huffington Post