Women are making themselves heard this March


Rebecca Newman

Even during the pandemic, women from all over have found ways to celebrate feminism during Women’s History Month.

In addition to being the one-year anniversary of the month the world descended into the chaos of a pandemic, March 2021 has also been a cause for solidarity and empowerment: National Women’s History Month.

As with almost everything in the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly interrupted the celebration of Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate and raise awareness about women’s achievements throughout history. But in the absence of marches, vigils, and community gatherings, people have done what they do best – go viral on social media.

“A lot of [the celebration] I’ve seen has been social media activism,” senior Rachel Silzle, president of the Cal High Feminism Club, said. “[There have been] a lot of posts highlighting influential women from companies, to activist groups, to educational nonprofits.”

Feminists, activists, and supporters of women empowerment have taken to platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter to honor women’s vital role in history and show their solidarity. Throughout the month, posts about prominent women in history and women in the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities have been shared by various groups on social media in an effort to honor women’s achievements.

“Even during regular times, social media activism is really important because it can reach a much broader audience,” Silzle said. “All of these posts related to social media are much more accessible to a wider audience which is really important to reach people who are newer to the feminist movement.”

Cal is home to several women empowerment and advocacy clubs such as the Feminist Club that strive to raise conversations about the realities of inequity in history and today, and take action to improve the lives of women and other minority groups.

Juniors Tiya Sharma and Selina Bali, co-presidents of the Wellness for Woman Club, have also begun conversations with their peers and club members to raise awareness about the importance of Women’s History Month.

“We work to empower women at California High School and everywhere in the world,” Sharma said. “[This month] we had a meeting talking about Women’s History Month, and we covered the importance of women empowerment and [embracing] how far we have come as a gender.”

Sharma and Bali worked to cross the barriers posed by remote meetings to really hear what club members thought about Women’s History Month.

“We tried to get everyone involved and had everyone interact,” Bali said. “We wanted to just see what people thought about Women’s History Month and how they could contribute to empowering women.”

The fight to raise awareness and conversation about gender equity and justice during Women’s History Month extends far beyond Cal, and youth across the globe have been at the vanguard of this mass movement.

Sustainable, Heard, Empowered (SHE) is a local organization with chapters at various high schools dedicated to raising awareness about the health dangers surrounding women’s sanitation and providing women in rural areas with sustainable sanitary options.

In addition to its year-round campaign in women’s health advocacy, SHE has been active on social media, commemorating Women’s History Month by sharing their insights and reposting important content from others.

“We’ve been trying to continuously post about women’s empowerment and how it’s important,” Srusti Acharya, Quarry Lane junior and SHE Sales/Finances Director, said. “Something you’ll see commonly with Instagram and with a lot of the nonprofits starting during the pandemic is that there is a lot of reposting and resharing, making sure that [the movement is] sustainable, heard, and empowered.”

Even as women are honored and celebrated on social media, people haven’t shied away from sharing the harsh realities of being a woman in today’s world. The defining characteristic of Women’s History Month 2021 has been women and girls speaking out about the harassment and abuse they’ve faced in the hopes of encouraging others to stand up for themselves.

In the wake of the UK statistic claiming that 97 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment, the movement for justice on social media has accelerated.

“The idea that we’re talking about the 97 percent is to prove to people just how common [sexual harassment] is,” Acharya said. “The fact that it’s above 0 percent, that’s the problem.”

This statistic has been at the root of conversations about creating change, and Acharya says that Women’s History Month can only be honored through real conversation.

“A lot of girls in high school are opening up about their own stories, and the more that I think about it, the more that I [realize] how important for people to be talking about this in general,” Acharya said. “A lot of the people we know, we wouldn’t have expected to have gone through this, and it’s so much easier to normalize the issue of assault and harassment if we don’t talk about it.”

While this isn’t the first instance of a mass social media movement by women to highlight major issues of gender inequity in the community, the response to shared stories and supportive posts has been overwhelming.

“I guess people have been claiming that it’s just a trend, but it’s really not,” Sindhoori Kalavacharla, Dougherty Valley junior and member of the nonprofit She Helps Her, said. “It’s been more about creating that sense of community and providing strength for others that didn’t have it before.”

Silzle says that while activism and support are necessary all year, Women’s History Month opens up the conversations that are crucial to these movements.

“I think it’s important to have various months throughout the year dedicated to certain underrepresented groups,” Silzle said. “[This month] is a celebration of womanhood to bring visibility and awareness around feminist issues.”

Youth and adults alike agree that this month is an opportunity to recognize the value and respect everyone deserves to be given. Principles of Biomedical Science teacher Joanna Condon has been sharing this message with her students all March.

“Girls and women should always look to the strong, courageous, principled people who have modeled the multifaceted reality of who a woman is and what she can do,” Condon said. “Each person in existence, no matter their income, sex, gender, who they love, status in society, religious beliefs (or not), physical abilities, mental health, country of origin, language spoken, outward appearance, and education has innate value and deserves to be heard.

“When women value themselves,” she continued, “they will value others, and society will rise, bringing all women, and all people, along with it.”