When I think about my years at school, I can barely remember learning about any famous women in my lessons. Maybe one or two writers, a mention of Marie Curie perhaps, Clara Campoamor in not many details. I don’t remember being wowed by any but I also don’t remember questioning why.
I always assumed that women were unfairly doing other things that were mundane and that is why they didn’t have a strong weight in history. I thought the society was thankfully evolving and that it would organically change, with new women making it to powerful positions. I believe what I was told, and I assumed the invisibility of women as a normal and fair thing.
Lots has happened since my school days, both in my way of understanding things but also in the world as a whole. And with this new lens I can only thank the amazing drive that some people are showing to recover the women in our history. There are books for kids, there are films about them, there are people determined to give them the space they deserve, the statues they should have had, their space in schoolbooks and their faces on bank notes.
We learn about slavery and the end of it, but not about the massive role women played to achieve it. We know about the French revolution but not about how women were fighting hand by hand and then humiliated and ignored by their peers that wanted men’s rights in the most accurate sense of the word. We imagine women as muses but don’t talk about the artists, the writers that had to write under a man’s name, the painters bullied by the artistic movements that we now romanticise. We don’t say that women invented pacific protests and hunger strikes in prisons, we oversee every achievement even if it took exponentially more for them to reach it.
Einstein and his forgotten wife (to mention just one of the examples), and all the quiet contribution those silenced colleagues made only for a man to cash out all the credit. It is not about denying what men have done but is time to recognise the role women played in those successes and also amplify the sheroes that for so long have been hidden and dismissed.
Of course, things are going to keep changing but the expected ‘organic’ change that I believed in just isn’t happening, or if it is, it’s not fast enough. Women are now more prepared than ever (factually speaking more prepared academically than men) and yet there is a glass ceiling in powerful positions.
We can’t be what we can’t see, and we owe it to the whole world to have more feminine role models – both for men to feel comfortably identified with and for women so that they reach further and higher.
The first step to change the future is to acknowledge the past and luckily we have one full of amazing women.