Tate museums, in case you didn't know, are named after the philanthropist Henry Tate, who made his money via Tate & Lyle, a British sugar refining business, which relied on slave labour (and continued exploitation of Afro-Caribbeans after the slavery had been abolished). I am grateful to Sir Henry for his generosity, but equally I feel it's good to know where the money came from.
And now, in case I haven't learned the lesson from Black History Month, I get to have first hand experience. March 2021 is now Women's History Month, says the US government. Come to think of it, it's a bit of an upgrade since according to this website, the origins of this "celebration" date back to 1981 when Congress authorised women's history to be celebrated for the whole week before progressing it to a month. We should be joyful!
As a result, I got a handful of emails last week about panels celebrating women's achievements and caught glimpse of media headlines putting spotlight on heroines in all walks of life. Without realising it, I even joined he movement by celebrating 8 March, International Women's Day, with a series of Instagram posts about women who had especially inspired me in the last 12 months.
But you know what? It was a little hard going with everything that has been on top of the media agenda otherwise. The women making headlines were Nicola Sturgeon, Meghan Markle and now Sarah Everard - all the for the wrong reasons. Commemorating women's history one month a year and patting yourself on the back will not improve visibility of women's achievements or the inequality in our society. Women - half of the world's population - cannot be forgotten for most of the year. Their agenda must be everyone's agenda, otherwise, as Caroline Criado-Perez has described so well in her book, Invisible Women, we'll keep getting smartphones too big for an average woman's hand, drugs which have not been properly tested on women and cars which have not been crash-tested with female body dummies.
I'm sure Women's History Month and all the associated initiatives have been well intentioned. We'll just have to hope that a dose of empowerment will carry us through the rest of the year.
I'll finish on a lighter note:
- How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?- None. It’s not the lightbulb that needs changing.