The ever-quotable Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Hear, hear! And here we are at March, Women’s History Month. I am stunned at how few people actually know WHM even exists. I believe our general ignorance about women’s history reflects the subtle and pernicious misogyny woven through our society — a mirror of our unarticulated worship of males. The utter lack of curiosity about women and girls’ role in the world manifests how media and entertainment consign female stories to the wastebaskets of ho-hum.
Why are so few people curious about women? While streaming services and “prestige” television projects have experienced significant breakthroughs in stories of fictional women, we continue to have a deficit of stories about actual historical figures — other than con artists. Because we’ve never done anything interesting? Because we’re only good for our looks? Only of value during our child-bearing years? And so the wheel turns, the storytelling gatekeepers keep us out, and we are regarded as not worthwhile learning about.
The British show “Call the Midwife” is a slap in the face to people who unconsciously believe that only men are bold and daring. We see valor and bravery depicted in action movies, war movies and adventures, almost always starring men. But hang out with a few episodes of “Call the Midwife” and you’ll see, up close and personal, that the most natural thing in the world is also the most courageous, one which frequently requires more guts than going into battle. And yet our storytellers continue glorifying men’s violence.
I’m fond of saying, “How do you know something is missing if it’s missing?” Did any of you say to yourself, “I wonder if there have been any female Popes?” (Yes, as it turns out. And also a female emperor of China.) Curiosity is born of wonder, and we’ve been bamboozled out of our natural curiosity by being brainwashed into thinking that only men are fascinating. Yes, they are fascinating, and so are women, from the act of childbirth all the way to ruling as one of the best popes or most innovative Chinese emperors in history.
If you’re predicating superiority on the idea that only white men are the most capable (and if you are, please stop!) stories of the “other” — whether that’s people of color or any women of any color — start chipping away at the notion that men are inherently better than women. Frustratingly, stories of gender nonconformity and accomplishments by people with disabilities or anyone “other” than the dominant group threaten the social order.
I ache when I think of the “missing” people of history, the denigrated and violated people of color who proved time and again they could accomplish anything their white brethren could. If their stories weren’t recorded, then they didn’t exist. If they didn’t exist, then they wouldn’t endanger the status quo by giving people “ideas.” Ideas are contagious, and pretty soon, wow, you’ve got whole groups of people thinking they are worthy of respect and rights. Very dangerous, ideas are.
And curiosity is also dangerous. Why are so few men curious about women’s lives? I have lucked out in the male friends department, but I can count on one hand the number of men who’ve asked me about my creativity or my accomplishments. Why do we still have the stereotypes of “chick lit” and “chick flicks”? Why do fanboys still blow their collective gaskets whenever a Marvel or “Star Wars” project has women in lead roles? I’m curious about that. What’s up, guys?
A central theme of my first book, “Beauty Bites Beast,” is that being represented by males only gave tacit permission to the religiously superstitious to torture, maim and/or kill women. Relegating women to inferior status made it easier to burn them at the stake. And goddess forbid that they learn how to defend themselves! Is it any wonder that women setting limits has been so taboo? Thus, my mission to teach women how to set boundaries: emotional, verbal and, when necessary, physical.
I am so proud to kick off Women’s History Month with the announcement that Gavin de Becker, the author of the worldwide bestseller “The Gift of Fear,” has rolled out a free series of MasterClasses available at his website,
giftoffear.com. Mr. de Becker is one of the most generous, understanding, curious and no-b.s. people I know when it comes to empowering women and girls. His intellect is astonishing. I am so proud to be an ally of his and even prouder to be in the “cast” of some of the classes in his series. Watch them yourself and then insist that everyone you know watch them, too. You’ll thank me.
Meanwhile, have a stellar Women’s History Month. Let me be your fairy godmother and bonk your head with my curiosity wand. Poof! You’re curious about women — woo-hoo!
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at ellen@