March is Women’s History Month. This is the time of the year where we take a step back and make sure that we are honoring the accomplishments and legacy of women past and present.
We have to be intentional about this because women have been historically marginalized. Even today, their history is often left out of our curriculum. Yes, the marginalization of women has minimized the roles they could have in the past but still, women have played a significant role in history.
Because of this, many teachers are going to be tempted to market their women’s history curriculum to their female students. This is the wrong approach. Women’s History Month is not just for women. Indeed, that line of thinking is actually the problem.
Though we live in a male dominated society, men do not exist in a world that is absent of the influence and contributions from women. Allowing boys to opt out of Women’s History Month content or not even presenting it to them in the first place reinforces the incorrect idea that women have not played a critical role in the world we live in today.
Marie Currie won her second Nobel Prize for research into radioactivity. Are men immune from radioactive elements?
Kamala Harris was the first woman to serve as Vice President of the United States. Do men not live in the United States?
Harriet Tubman freed hundreds of enslaved Africans. Where there not men among them?
Rosalind Franklin made significant contributions to the discovery of DNA. Do men not have DNA?
Ironically, the latter of those names, Rosalind Franklin is a perfect example of why Women’s History Month is needed. James Watson and Francis Crick are the two scientists who won the Nobel Prize for laying the groundwork on DNA research; however, it has subsequently come out that much of their work was based on Rosalind Franklin’s work for which they didn’t properly credit her. This locked her out of contention for the Nobel Prize which many critics believe she now deserves. (She passed away at 37, and the award is not given posthumously)
These are the stories that need to be told and not just to girls. To be clear: It is obviously important to inspire girls in the classroom. There is likely no better way to do that than by giving them examples from history to look up to. However, this is not the sole purpose of teaching about prominent women and girls. And women and girls should not be the only people to derive inspiration from accomplished women.
Just as Black History Month content is necessary for white students, Women’s History Month content is essential to male students, too.
Andrew Pillow is a fifth grade social studies teacher at KIPP Indianapolis, a charter school where he has taught since 2011. He is also a former Teach Plus Policy Fellow and he has taught technology and social issues.