A conversation about womanhood and history

Four Avenica team members discuss what it means to be a woman and the women that came before them.

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Avenica recently assembled an internal group to take the reins in planning events and educational content related to Women’s History Month, as an extension of our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. This group of four met weekly to discuss materials and information they could share with team Avenica that inspires them. In addition to the podcasts, books, and documentaries shared, the following discussion transpired among the group of Tess Eby (“T”), Kendyl Thomas (“K”), Jess Rossbauer (“J”), and Riley Ovall (“R”).

The range of responses from each team member inspired us to share this dialogue more broadly in case others might relate or at minimum reflect on these questions for themselves.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

K: To me, Women’s History Month means creating space to not only acknowledge the history of women across the world and their accomplishments, but also to celebrate and uplift women – both those that we know personally and those we do not.

J: To me, Women’s History Month reflects everything that women have done, and everything that women are. The achievements made by women have been written out of “history” for so long, it is so important to create a space where women are celebrated and remembered. The beauty of celebrating women’s history month every year is that women are continuously contributing such great importance, and always will.

T: Women’s History Month for me really serves as a celebration and reminder of how far women have come. A celebration of accomplishments and a time to highlight those things outside of everyday life!

R: To me Women’s History Month is an opportunity to embrace the celebration of women that is often left out of history. It doesn’t mean we only celebrate women’s history during this month, but that we focus on highlighting the women so often left out of our history books. It is a reminder that women have had an impact on history, despite injustices throughout. It gives a voice to history that may not have been considered for the history textbooks we grew up with.

Do you want to be celebrated as a woman? How do you want to be celebrated as a woman?

K: Yes – I sit proudly in my womanhood and feel joy at being able to take this month to celebrate the women around me as well. I think for me, being celebrated as a woman means flipping the mirror around and not just looking at my own triumphs, but also basking in the joy and contributions that so many of the women around me bring every day.

I think it is also important to acknowledge intersecting identities when celebrating womanhood. It is impossible for me personally to exist as a woman without existing as a Black woman and experiencing all that comes with that specific intersection. It is important to consider intersectionality as we acknowledge the contributions of women hailing from so many different backgrounds – I encourage every reader to explore what that means for their own means of celebrating women’s history this month.

“I think for me, being celebrated as a woman means flipping the mirror around and not just looking at my own triumphs, but also basking in the joy and contributions that so many of the women around me bring every day.” -Kendyl Thomas

J: The answer is to this question is so complex, when broken down. Of course, as a woman, I want to celebrate womanhood but when thinking about the root of why women deserve to be celebrated, it comes down to the fact that women deserve equality. The oppression that women before me faced is the backbone of why women should be celebrated; the hardships they overcame, the lack of space they were given, and the denial of their accomplishments. I want to be celebrated as a woman, by having equal opportunities to achieve and succeed.

T: I go back and forth on the first question, as I stated above it serves as a reminder, but it also reminds me that this still separates us. But to answer the question I do really enjoy the celebration – I feel like I learn so many things from women who have paved the way and want to continue to do so. I want to be celebrated as a person – not by identifiers!

R: I want to be celebrated as women because of the things that make me unique as a woman. I operate in a male dominated work world every day and still thrive. Women’s hormone cycles operate totally different than a man’s, yet to fit in we force ourselves into their world. By “celebrated” I would really like just to be honored as a woman, through opportunity to do what is best for me, without having to conform to society’s expectations. I would also like to celebrate by giving all the women in my life that opportunity to flow in the way that works best for them. Every woman has the right to celebrate, or not celebrate, in whatever way feels best to them.

What is a challenge you have overcome as a woman in your lifetime?

K: A big challenge for me has been to build up my own self-confidence in the workplace. I think when you’re right out of college and entering the corporate/professional space, it is not uncommon to feel like people may assume you’re less bright, less strong, less capable, etc. in the corporate setting due to an undeniable list of stereotypes that exist about young women. Proving my own strength in the corporate setting – not just to others, but to myself as well – has been an ongoing journey for me.

J: A challenge that I have overcome as a woman, along with many other women, is the idea that womanhood comes with labels. Society’s longstanding construct on categorizing women has perpetrated such negative counterparts to what is considered honorable in a man. Women have been scrutinized and stereotyped for being too loud, too sensitive, or “funny for a woman”, “smart for a woman.” As I have become comfortable in my womanhood, I have realized I am not “too” anything and all of my best qualities are not just “for a woman,” and I no longer allow others’ perceptions of me to create an unwanted and unnecessary label.

T: I use this all this time in my life, but I was a student athlete – and in sports there is still a huge gap. One of the things that I had the chance to overcome was people taking me in a sport seriously. Not only just me but women in sports are consistently downplayed and compared to men. How I overcame this was a put in the work – there were only a handful of individuals growing up that played at the next level in college. I noticed as soon as I was able to prove that, things did start to change… which is a good and bad thing!

R: I think the biggest challenge for me is sorting out what it means to be a woman. My first ever strong ethical standpoint was feminism. I remember all the way to recess I was always looking for a way to fight for my fellow girls, whether it was winning a football game, or arguing that I could wear blue if I wanted, not just pink. Actually, I remember in elementary school playing “hospital” at recess and being told I was a nurse, and my guy friend was a doctor. I was so confused because my doctor growing up was a woman. I promptly explained the guy was totally wrong and that I in fact would also be a doctor during recess.

I am currently on a holistic health journey that is pushing me to get in touch with my femininity and celebrate my differences as a female. It has been hard to me recently to be able to argue equality while also celebrating my differences with my male counter parts. There is so much value placed on operating within a male dominated world, I sometimes fear that if I listen to my inner voice, I may lose opportunities. I think that a big thing for me has been seeing that everyone is different, and my femininity is a difference, but not a weakness. I can be a woman and be equal without having to try to fit into a man’s world.

“I think that a big thing for me has been seeing that everyone is different, and my femininity is a difference, but not a weakness. I can be a woman and be equal without having to try to fit into a man’s world.” -Riley Ovall

What is a historical event in women’s history that inspires you?

K: As something of a space nerd myself, I am partial to Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride becoming the first woman in space and the first American woman in space, respectively. I’ve always found those moments to be such symbols of the heights that women can reach, if given the chance.

J: A historical event in women’s history that inspires me is the creation of the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) In 1966, Betty Friedman gathered a group of women together and created the organization, that today is still fighting for equality. N.O.W is now the largest organization that focuses on women’s rights which includes advocating for equality in reproductive healthcare, the economy, violence against women, and discrimination.

T: Women in Baseball – Although this happened as there was a lack of players due to men being called to war. It was a chance to prove that women can do all things men can do. Most times better!

R: August 18th, 1920 women were finally given the right to vote in their own country after many, many years of fighting for women’s rights. 102 years ago.

What else do you want share regarding the topic of gender? (In the work place, in life, or in any element?)

J: I would like to share that although gender does play a huge role in everyone’s identity, everyone’s skills and contributions do not have a gender, sex, race, or age. Intersectionality is a vital piece of each person’s walk of life, and no one should be looked at as just one aspect of themself, such as their gender.

R: All those who identify as a woman deserve to be celebrated and honored in the way that makes them feel their best.

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