Women’s History Month 2018 Begins Today: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Zora Neale Hurston

Today begins Women’s History Month 2018. Like last month for Black History Month, every post on Mark’s Text Terminal during March will be related to the history of women and their myriad contributions to and achievements in our global civilization. So, you’ll see two posts a day, five days a week here until Saturday, March 31st. We are at a moment in women’s history in which peril and opportunity best describe women’s position in the United States. Peril because the President of the United States is evidently a militant misogynist, and the vice president is a theocrat right out of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; opportunity because these politicians have provoked a backlash that, happily, may well be be their undoing.

Clearly, the Me Too Movement is an encouraging development. So too are the courageous women Time magazine has called the “Silence Breakers.” That all of this began because women somehow got the crazy idea that they should be able to attend a business meeting without looking at the exposed genitals of powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and his ilk seems ordinary enough to me, but it has been hailed as something of a miracle. Whatever: I thank them for their witness and testimony

That said, these are grim days. Voters in the United States have elected a man who is vain, prideful, ignorant, misogynistic, willing not only to boast to a dimwitted talk-show host (who himself is a a scion of the family that produced two of our least distinguished presidents) about sexually assaulting women on the strength of his “celebrity” status, but has also paid off a porn star to conceal the evidence of philandering from his third wife, who presents problems of her own, not the least of which is her–and her parents–dubious arrival in this country,  which goes some length to expose the president’s hypocrisy on immigration.

(Aside: it seems to me, that Protestant Evangelicals who have overlooked Trump’s three marriages, and his payment to Stormy Daniels, and possibly a payment to a Playboy magazine model named Karen McDougal, have a lot of hypocrisy and moral blindness of their own to answer for.)

The overall misogyny of the Republican Party, coupled with its tacit encouragement of the craziest loose cannons in its ranks, has led to attacks on Planned Parenthood both in word and in deed. I’m a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood (and I think you should be too). By any measure to which I am prepared to stipulate, attacks on Planned Parenthood, a provider of healthcare for some of the most impoverished and vulnerable women in our nation, are, in my absolutely humility-free estimation, an attack on women everywhere.

For many years, I have naively considered a number of issues in human affairs essentially settled. For example, after the Enlightenment, I take as a given that the scientific method–you know, the controversial act of backing arguments with evidence to prove them–was the sine qua non of inquiry. Yet now on an almost daily basis, demagogues (and yes, they are mostly if not entirely Republicans) seek to undermine the legitimacy of science and the means by which it establishes facts. Similarly, after the the feminisms of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, I assumed that a woman’s right to control her destiny, particularly in terms of her own reproductive system, was settled.

Yet here we are, in 2018, still listening to garbage like this, uttered by people delightfully unencumbered by decency or shame. I could supply a lot more quotes from low-watt Republicans that diminish and disrespect women, but I’d be here all morning copying and pasting links–not to mention exposing my tender consciousness to some of the most aggressively stupid and vicious rhetoric currently on offer in the American marketplace of “ideas.” So I’ll take a hard pass on that.

So, let’s begin Women’s History Month 2018 with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Zora Neale Hurston, who serves as a perfect conjunction between Black History Month and Women’s History Month. Tomorrow I’ll post a more substantial Weekly Text, as I will on each Friday this month.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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