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Women's History Month, Sarah Everard, and the Oklahoma Girls Basketball Team

Ellen Levitt

Posted on March 12, 2021 22:07

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March is Women's History Month. We just commemorated International Women's Day. Yet women are still being attacked, belittled, demeaned. We must stop this.

March is Women's History Month, when we acclaim and applaud women's achievements of various types. We celebrate International Women's Day. In my hometown of Brooklyn, a new statue was revealed of the recently passed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Also in the news? The vicious killing of London resident Sarah Everard, who'd been missing for a week. And racial slurs lobbed at members of a girls' high school basketball team in Oklahoma. And the painful, controversial interview that Oprah Winfrey conducted with Meghan Markle.

A bewildering balance here: on one side we have joy, pride, acknowledgement of progress; on the other we have age-old violence against women, verbal demeaning of women (especially women of color), and a harsh expose about the life of a woman who is a celebrity and person of color.

It would be naive to think that March should only be a happy, positive month for women and girls. But this month alone, we're already confronting the best-of and the worst-of humanity, and how it impacts women's lives.

We have a new #MeToo, and it's #TooManyWomen. Too Many Women who are victims of violence, sexual abuse, slurs, economic mistreatment, and more. This hashtag and rallying cry rears its ugly head during Women's History Month. 

Don't we women get a break from violent acts and men who wish to do us harm? Don't we deserve a month of good cheer and comradery? Can't we have 31 days of positivity? 

It boggles the mind. No matter how much women push forward, someone (and usually it's men but also women) who try to throw us down. But we cannot give up. We must stand up, brush ourselves off, and fight for our rights and safety and for opportunities.

This morning I began to teach an online course in self defense for older adults. Turns out that all the registrants for the course are women. At first I was surprised, but several women in the class spoke up about their concerns about violence, especially toward older women. And a few said they were surprised to see that the instructor of this course is a woman. I told them that I am particularly interested in teaching self defense to women and girls, and to impart this knowledge because I am a woman who has studied martial arts and self defense. 

And yes, I have been the victim of low-level abuse, and fought back against it. (A man once touched me inappropriately at a train station, and I chased after him; I watched him stumble and fall while he tried to flee.) And I've been belittled for being a woman who was interested in martial arts. (Albert in high school told me he'd never date a girl who took karate and I snapped back "Who'd go on a date with you?")

I didn't deserve the abuse nor ridiculous criticism. No one else does either. Yet I have hope that society can evolve further, and women can be treated better. 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on March 12, 2021 22:07

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