Women’s History Month is an annual event that provides the government and yogurt companies an opportunity to pay beige lip service to the achievements and purchases of women. I always found it funny that Women’s History month takes 1/12 of the year to honor 1/2 of the population. That’s a lot of honoring, pound for pound! It’s also strange that Women’s History Month is often most ardently acknowledged by people whose contributions to the welfare of women is debateable, like heads of corporations who rely on exploitative labor practices to remain millionaires, or government officials who cut funding to programs that counsel women in developing countries who wish to obtain safe abortions. If my perception of being a woman was based on empowerment ads shown during Women’s History Month, I’d assume it involved a lot of twirling before standing mirrors or outfitting my imaginary blonde daughter with a football helmet, black and white photos of Susan B. Anthony and historical montages brought to you by insurance companies.
Anyway, it’s a hoot. We always have a great time during the muddiest month of the year, us women.
This year’s Women’s History Month was a particularly odd celebration of a parallel universe where women are moving in a positive direction, instead of the one we’re flopping around in now. The Washington Post gingerly called its commemoration “awkward.” It’s so much more than that.
Women’s History Month in the era of Trump is bizarre. It’s strange. It’s so ridiculous that several times during its course, I had to stop and catch my breath because my lungs were filling up from the inside with liquid irony. That’s mostly because the President of the United States is a former beauty pageant owner who liked to walk on his “his” contestants in their changing rooms and famously bragged about groping women, a hawk for border patrol who doesn’t respect women’s boundaries.
President Trump kicked off this most special of moon cycles by taking a second stab at his Muslim travel ban on March 6. The ban would have disproportionately affected women and children, and seemed to be based on no actual threats. It was poorly thought out, just like the first one, and was struck down by a court in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, ICE raids targeting undocumented immigrants meant that in some American cities, undocumented victims of domestic violence were not coming forward out of fear.
On March 8, the world met the Republicans’ long-touted Affordable Care Act replacement, a steaming compost heap of a bill that aimed to defund Planned Parenthood for a year, slash Medicaid, and launch premiums for low-income adults between 55 and 64 years old into outer space. Trump was very proud of this bill that he didn’t fashion and didn’t bother to learn about, promising it would be an example to other countries. It wasn’t. More on that later.
On March 16, the Trump administration released its budget, a wish list of budget cuts and cash infusions for different parts of the government. Among them were proposed slashes to the Department of Education (teachers are disproportionately women), block grants that funded such endeavors as domestic-violence shelters, food for after-school programs, and Meals on Wheels, which provides food and companionship to the elderly. Did you know that among Americans over 85, women outnumber men two-to-one? Fun Women’s History Month fact.
German Prime Minister Angela Merkel met with Trump on May 17, and at the conclusion of their meeting, the most powerful woman in the world asked the president if he’d like to shake her hand. He pursed his lips in a manner that can only be described as “toadlike” and kept his bantam hands out of her reach.
By the next week, it was clear that the Republican health care bill was running into problems. And so Donald Trump and literally dozens of white men gathered together to negotiate concessions that would please the House Freedom Caucus’ thirst for budget cuts. Those cuts came in the form of maternity care. The bill didn’t pass, and on March 24, Trump blamed the Democrats for failing to get it done. It was a Women’s History Month Miracle!
Eager to get one more shot in before the end of the month, on March 30, the Senate used an obscure tactic to pass a bill that would undo an Obama-era rule designed to prevent states from depriving abortion providers of Title X funds. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.
Any organization is an extension of its leader, and the Trump administration is no exception. As such, it treats women as Trump treats women—valuable as far as they are beautiful or make Donald Trump feel good. In all other cases, they’re invisible or inconvenient or intolerable. That’s probably why women are vanishingly rare in the administration’s inner circle. It’s probably why women often seem to simply not occur to them. And I’ve found a little respite in the fact that this Women’s History Month would have been even more insulting if President Trump were anything but inept. Lucky us.
Perhaps I’m being unfair. There were some very important photo ops this month. Ivanka Trump, who has never called herself a feminist but sure likes to market herself as one, posed next to Justin Trudeau, an actual feminist. Ivanka also said that women deserve a seat at the table before taking off for a ski trip that coincided nicely with the GOP debate about how many different kinds of insurance women will have to buy in order to make sure they have health care in case they do or do not get pregnant.
Melania appeared in some photos as well. On March 29, she honored the work of 12 women from around the world whose work her husband’s administration would actively hamper. Domestic violence advocates, women who work in refugee camps, women who stand against men who sexually assault. Congratulations to them for persevering despite the mounting odds against them, I guess. Watching Melania celebrate them was like watching the Tom present an award to Jerry.
This week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared the Trump administration’s commitment to empowering women. Also this week, Sean Spicer told April Ryan, a female member of the press corps, to stop shaking her head at him.
Trump held an extremely empowering photo opp. He gave a speech Wednesday to mark our special month about how much he wanted to help women succeed that he almost certainly did not write. As a woman watching it, I felt truly (non-consensually) touched.
Today, President Trump is back to attempting to bully the Senate into confirming his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, lower court architect of a Supreme Court ruling that found that corporations could have “sincerely-held” religious beliefs that trumped individual women’s right to use their insurance benefits to purchase contraception.
Those events alone are enough fodder for every American woman to roll her eyes dozens of times per day straight through the 2020 election. But don’t forget that the entire celebration occurred in the shadow of investigation into Trump officials’ collusion with Russian state actors during the 2016 election.
In January, Russia’s parliament voted to decriminalize domestic violence in the motherland by a vote of 380-3.
Merry Women’s History Month, everybody!