March is well known as Women’s History Month and contains notable holidays like International Women’s Day and The Day of the Girl. Every year, many events celebrate the accomplishments of women and aim to bring light to gender inequality. The women’s, gender, and sexuality (WGS) department at the University of Maine is celebrating this month by hosting a series of events that students can access through their social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.
According to Laura Cowan, director of the WGS program at UMaine and associate professor of English Women’s History used to be confined to March 8, 1911, rather than an entire month. In Cowan’s experience as a teenager living in France, she remembered Women’s Day as similar to Mother’s Day, but more inclusive as it recognized every woman.
When asked what has prompted the inclusion of more events that promote gender equality and women this month Cowan stated,
“We believe in equity. We believe that power and human rights are not a zero sum game,” Cowan said. “It is important that women’s perspective and women’s experiences are represented in all domains: education, politics, business, the arts. It is important for young children — no matter their gender — to see women celebrated and to see women’s accomplishments so that they can aspire to contribute to their communities, their workplaces, and their families. The more power is shared equally by all people of all descriptions, the more power everyone has.”
Cowan continued to stress the importance of equality when speaking about specific events.
“[WGS] sponsored the Women and Climate Change Lecture series through Professor Katie Glover’s class on women and climate change because we believe that feminists and women can help solve the climate change crisis by cultural change and transformation,” Cowan said. “Science has done a good job observing and explaining Climate Change, but humans need to change our attitudes and our worldviews if we are going to rise to this crisis. We believe that feminist principles of equity, stress on relationships between people and between nature and people, valuing others as subjects rather than as objects, and a resistance to hierarchies are the kinds of values that will can lead us to live more sustainable lives.”
The relationship between women and the people around them, as well as women and their environment, is a prevalent theme in the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies department. Cowan acknowledged the difficulty of 2020 as a whole and how the situations brought about by the coronavirus pandemic caused different stresses for women. She feels that although notable women have succeeded this year, it is important to focus on celebrating the everyday woman who has endured many challenges.
“Feminism is in principle about equity and diversity. The hardships imposed by the coronavirus, economic crisis, divisive politics and the killings of people of color this past year mean that every day women were heroines day after day as they worked in essential jobs, provided essential care to coronavirus patients and persevered in many domains in spite of challenges. So I would emphasize the ‘notable accomplishments’ this year were everyday women whose names are not recorded in newspapers or appear on TV or on billboards.” Cowan stated.
As far as more famous women who have accomplished achievements in the past year, Cowan credits Stacey Abrams with her voting initiatives, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy in law and Kamala Harris becoming vice president.
Everyone has the opportunity to become more educated on feminist issues. UMaine has many resources available for students that would allow them to achieve this.
“Students at the University of Maine can start by going to the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality University of Maine website, our WGS Facebook page, our WGS Instagram, and WGS Twitter. We do our best to keep our community abreast of current events and also supply background information and references on all our sites,” Cowan said.
“Student Life sponsors student organizations which advocate for gender equality: the Feminist Collective (Fem C), Wilde-Stein (for LGBTQ people and allies), the Intersectional Feminist Resource Center, PRISM (a residential life community), and the Rainbow Resource Center. The WGS program stresses its intersections with other disadvantaged groups who lack power or privilege because of race, ethnicity, religion, class, disability, regionalism, country of origin. We study all these groups in our classes and encourage students to learn about our issues and share insights from their perspectives.”
The WGS department will be hosting events this month to promote equality. Those interested can view their social media accounts or the UMaine websites for more information.