No National Holidays Recognize Women
How do we Explain this to our daughters?
We are about to enter the Holiday Season. It kicks off with Black month, formerly knowns as Black Friday, followed by Thanksgiving, St. Nick’s Day Dec 6, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year’s Eve and finally New Year’s Day. Later in the year, other holidays are also celebrated.
What do these holidays have in common?
If we take a close look at these and other holidays, the thing they have in common is they either celebrate or center on a male, or group of males, mostly white. Thanksgiving commemorates the first harvest in the Plymouth Colony where Indians brought the food, women cooked it, and the men ate it. Most artist renditions show the men eating and women serving. Today, the mascot of Thanksgiving is a turkey, but it is always depicted as a male turkey named Tom. This is odd because nearly all the turkeys we eat are actually hens.
Moving on the St. Nick’s day Dec 6, celebrated in Europe more so than here. The star is obviously is St. Nicholas. Chanukah, a Jewish holiday, celebrates the miracle of the oils in the Temple in Jerusalem in 139BCE. Women were not Rabbis and not allowed in the inner sanctum of the Temple, so the miracle was witnessed by men and the rabbis (men) chose to commemorate it. The star attraction of Christmas is Jesus, a male; his supporting cast was male shepherds, and Three Wise Men.
Kwanza is a relatively new festival that celebrates African culture, principles, and the harvest. This is the most gender inclusive holiday of all because it centers on the family. Sadly, few white even know it exists.
This brings us to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The mascot of New Year’s Day is a baby boy. How do we know the baby is male? The mascot of New Year’s Eve is old man time who gives way to the baby at midnight. Old man time is not gender neutral and is certainly not a woman.
These holidays are not alone when it comes to celebrating male hood. Easter is as well. In the religious sense, Easter commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus. In the secular sense, the mascot of Easter is a bunny. How do we know the bunny is male? His name is Peter, not Patricia or Petra.
Looking at other holidays, MLK Day. This is an important holiday, but still honors a man. We then come to the Fourth of July. That is the day that an all-male Colonial Congress declared independence from the “King” Nuf said.
Another national holiday, Columbus Day, celebrates a man for “discovering America” even though America had been “discovered” hundreds of years before.
Even the two National Holidays that recognize Veterans—Memorial Day and Veterans Day—are somewhat male-centric because initially, women were not allowed to serve in the military, except an auxiliary branch, and now, only a small percentage of the military are women; specifically 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps according to the Defense Department.
Why the Male Domination of Holidays?
We should ask ourselves why there is this male domination of holidays. Have women contributed nothing deserving of recognition? How do we explain this to our young daughters? Or do we even try?
We could try to raise our daughters’ self-esteem by explaining that women are equal to men in the United States, pointing to the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution as proof. That would be foolhardy because despite all the talk about equality, a sufficient number of states led by Republicans, blocked ratification that amendment. This alone demonstrates that the lack of official recognition of women in our country is not a fluke. It is policy.
There is one thing that unites every person on the planet and that is we all have a mother—even a test-tube baby. I believe that is disgraceful to tolerate this indignity to our own mothers. I believe it is time to end the platitudes and begin rooting out all of the conscious and unconscious biases we have institutionalizes against women. There is not tie like today to begin.