March has been set aside to
celebrate women’s history since 1987, when the tradition grew out of a
school event in California. This year Women’s History Month has a
and theme of “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment”. Special
a large selection of women’s literature, including many feminist
periodicals, which we will feature throughout the month. One
example is the 1980’s feminist magazine Spare Rib.
Spare Rib was a monthly magazine focused on women’s rights
and the ongoing global struggle for equality, featuring articles, poetry, op-ed
pieces, classifieds, and news from around the world. The February 1981 issue
featured an article on the actions of a group called “Women Against Violence
Against Women.” All across England, supporters of the organization spread
graffiti and acted out against corruption in both law and the police force. At
the time women were prohibited from carrying any sort of self-defense weapon
(pepper spray, etc) and sexual assault against women, particularly within
marriage, was often ignored. The police force itself reacted violently to
demonstrations put on by the WAVAW organization. The entire UK was under
enormous social strife as the WAVAW and other groups battled for their own safety
and recognition of their rights.
There is a long tradition of women’s groups being
politically active and working to make their voices heard on important issues.
The January 1981 issue of “Spare Rib” featured articles on feminists meeting in
Bristol to discuss the issue of imperialism and housewives resisting a corrupt
With the new presidential administration calling for
increases in the (arguably already absurd) national military spending, a
particularly poignant article appears in the July 1983 issue. Titled “Politics Without the Punch?” the article contains excerpts from recent literature published by
“The Feminism and Nonviolence Study Group” as well as three women’s responses
to it. The literature argues that for peace to be realized, the world must not
just be without war but also purged of the patriarchal causes of war and
violence. However, some of the responses argue that violence can be necessary
for the liberation of the oppressed and nonviolence is a continuation of an
expectation of passivity of women.
2017 has seen many challenges to gender equality, but has
also seen many amazing displays of solidarity and protest in light of these
challenges. Events such as the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and across the
world in other cities show that the fiery demand for equality represented in
these magazines is still alive and well. Throughout the month of March, as well
as the rest of the year, it’s important to take time to celebrate women’s
history and to continue to fight for a better world for everyone.