I was eight years old when I was first told I couldn’t do something simply because I was a girl. Eight years old when I first had to defend my strength and ability. Eight years old when I first realized my hair and my love for pink made me stand out more than my straight As and mad Wiffle ball skills. I’m 19 now, and I cannot tell you how many times between eight and 19 I have been told I cannot do something because I am a girl. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to defend my strength and my ability and my intellect in regard to my gender. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked down the street just to have my slowly gained self-respect ripped away from my tightly clutched hands by a whistle or a “come on baby, give me a smile.”

And this experience of constant justification and defense of body and mind is not solely my own. It is the narrative that too many women and girls in my generation share. It is the narrative that we cannot allow to perpetuate and pervade the lives of those whom are to follow in our footsteps. You see, women’s history doesn’t stop. It is happening right now, in real time, all over the world across various disciplines.

We owe it to our eight-year-old selves to pay homage to the achievements, both big and small, of women everywhere. Which is exactly why I celebrate Women’s History Month and all of the celebratory history months for that matter: They serve just as much as a way for people to pause and reflect on progress made as they do as a way for people to conceptualize how much progress has yet to be made. It is the ultimate mirror on the wall, reminding us that we as a society are, in fact, not the fairest of them all.

I celebrate Women’s History Month to remind myself that defending the power of my womanhood and the thoughtfulness of my female mind may one day lead to an eight-year-old girl not having to. I celebrate Women’s History Month to remind young girls that women have been breaking barriers and challenging the status quo since the beginning of time. I celebrate Women’s History Month to remind everyone that we are better when we all – people of gender across the spectrum – stand together, for if our fight is for equality then inclusivity is our most powerful weapon.

This Women’s History Month, I challenge you, too, to celebrate. In any way that you see fit, whether that means listening to Beyoncé while staring at a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg dressed in Rosie the Riveter attire or simply sharing gratitude via social media. Find your own way to appreciate the achievements of women from the past, to celebrate the achievements of women in the present and to inspire the achievements of women of the future.

– Erina Colombo is a junior public affairs student in the College of Professional Studies.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.