Six reasons why men need Women's Herstory Month
Ella Baker, official of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, speaks at the Jeannette Rankin news conference on Jan. 3, 1968. (AP Photo/Jack Harris)

There are several articles on how men can support women in their observance of Women’s Herstory Month. I’m not a woman, so I don’t know how they feel about that. But to me, risking the mansplaining label, such conversations feel lacking.

And by lacking, I mean the focus of these articles seem to stop at men “giving” women the space to revel in all aspects of the month celebrating “herstory.”

This is not one of those articles.

I contend that for men to move out of the way or give the symbolic mic to women during the month of March so they can spit verses about their contributions to society misses what I’m assuming is one of the most important aspects of the month—that everybody celebrate, pay attention to and learn something from Women’s Herstory Month. Anything less feels patronizing.

But there are brothers who see the month like most Blackfolk see Yom Kippur or Diwali. In other words, they don’t. And that’s why the idea of the bruhs stepping aside so sisters can have a brief moment in the pulpit is only further ingraining the idea that Western society has perpetuated for far too long—that women are somehow less than.

And it’s crazy how some will cringe and reject the notion that society views women as less than even while Black women get paid 65 cents to the dollar for the same work a man does. Or that a bunch of Republican white men have passed federal laws that give them more power and control over women’s bodies than the sovereignty given to them by the Creator over their own damn selves.

So, here’s a list of benefits Black males of all ages can glean from observing and participating in Women’s Herstory Month.

Increases Awareness of Gender Issues

There are some brothers out there who, when a sister brings up an issue of gender inequality (sexism, misogyny) that she has experienced, respond with one of the following: “Why are you making such a big deal out of that?” “Are you sure they dissed you because you’re a woman?” “Hey, we’re all equal. There’s no gender discrimination anymore. Look at (insert name of your successful woman of choice).” Brothers, we can’t respond to the legitimate cries for support from our wives, daughters and female friends by sounding like white people responding to us when we call out racism and white supremacy.

Women’s Herstory Month offers the perfect opportunity to learn more about the harsh reality of gender inequality issues that are alive and well in 2022, and are in all our faces for those with the eyes to see. A quick aside: I put a callout on Facebook to get people’s thoughts on gender pay inequity, and one brother responded, “What job advertises that they hire women for less money than men? That’s illegal.” This grown-a man literally had no clue that women, especially Black women, get paid much less than their male counterparts who are doing the exact same job. Bruhman has no clue. In 2022! And that’s just one issue out of many impacting Black women harshly.

Equips us to Reject Hollywood/Media Images & Stereotypes

Say “Lord, have mercy” if you’ve seen this before. A movie shows a woman sensing danger. She runs away screaming, and eventually ends up falling down. As the danger creeps closer, she screams louder, hoping and praying that someone will come save her. Because certainly, she doesn’t possess the strength, intelligence, savvy, etc. to save herself. That whole damsel in distress motif is as old as dirt, and has been plastered upon women of all races. However, white women hold the distinction of at least being placed on a pedestal at times and “worshipped” by her men (though some womanists argue, that pedestal thing is just as insulting and degrading as the “helpless damsel” role).

But when and where have you seen or heard media worshipping at the altar of Black womanhood? Chances are, you haven’t, because sisters are portrayed and/or viewed, in movies, TV shows and real-life work environments, as the angry Black woman, mammy (submissive), jezebel (sexy, sex-craved) or Sapphire (sassy—i.e. the loud girlfriend of the main character but with no backstory, and always ready with a funny or cold comeback). Even with the explosion of more diverse roles for Black women, and more boss sisters running things behind the camera, these caricatures still color the way many people in our everyday lives lock our sisters’ potential in a box of limiting stereotypes.

And brothers, even though we should know better, because we’ve seen up close and personal, the strength, courage, leadership, intelligence, creativity and genius of Black women on full display in our own lives, we too fall victim to the media okey-doke, and end up operating within the Matrix of white society’s views of our own sisters.

Women’s Hertory Month offers us a golden opportunity to receive some counter-programming, or course correction, if you will, so we don’t continue down a path led by some dumb-shtuff. And I could do a roll call of great Black (Pan-African) women we can learn about and celebrate during the month of March and beyond who can help us recognize the full humanity of Black women and girls. But it may do us more good to open our eyes to the full humanity of those soul sisters in our midst that we see every day. Brothers, let’s start there, and work our way outward.

Introduces us to Global Contributors in Every Phase of Life

Yeah, I said start at home with learning about the real history, story and experiences of Black women, and that I wasn’t going to do a roll call of greats. But yo, I like roll calls. And Black women offer one of the longest and strongest on earth. But I’m just going to hit you with a few names that we can lift up and learn from during and beyond Women’s Herstory Month.

Yaa Asantewaa (Ghana). Queen Tiye (Kemet/Ancient Egypt). Queen Nzinga (Ndongo and Matamba, or modern-day Angola). Queen Lili’uokalani (Hawaii). Wangari Maathai (Kenya). Ella Baker (Norfolk, VA USA). Abbey Lincoln / Aminata Moseka (Chicago, USA). La Virreina Juana (Cartagena/Colombia by way of Africa).

What? You thought I was going to tell the stories of these heroic soul sisters here in this limited space? Nah playa. The links provided are a nice start, but you need to do the work/research yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

A Better Society

Our Forever First Lady, Michelle Obama, said, as have several others, that “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.” If that’s true, our society can’t meet its higher ideals until all obstacles to gender equality are removed. A huge part of moving those obstacles is putting in the work to learn Herstory, because without it there is no “our story.” Also, obstacle moving requires the courage to confront those hurdles and roadblocks.  Women’s Herstory Month equips us with not only the knowledge needed to recognize and honor the fully humanity of Black women and girls, it also offers us countless inspirational examples of how to fight the powers that be, so we can give birth to the kind of world we all deserve. So, we can, in the words of Audre Lorde, “be the change we want to see in the world.”

New Definitions of Strength, Courage, etc.

Ask any Black person you know, and you can probably get more examples than you care to hear about the strength and courage of the Black women in their lives. Yet, we as a society and we as men often still hold onto those limited views of strength and courage given to us from a male perspective. Being able to honor the gumption, audacity, nerve, zeal, grit and undying determination Black women have displayed, are displaying and will continue to display, allows us to free ourselves from that narrow view of qualities the creator made available to all regardless of gender. Women’s Herstory Month is full of examples that remind us of this fact.

Become Our Best Selves

If it is true that a person is limited in the expression/growth of their own humanity based upon the level at which they fail to recognize and honor the full humanity of others, then men can’t be all they (we) were created to be as long as society continues to “other” women, especially and particularly Black women. Women’s Herstory Month offers us brothers an opportunity for honest and hard self-reflection. Because it’s not enough for us to say “society” limits, hinders or “others” women. We must confront the ways we, each of us individually, contribute to that nonsense, and then move to do better. To do much better. For ourselves (bruhs) and for all those soul sisters across space and time who made a way out of no way, thus creating an avenue through which we could exist.

Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...