Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and advancements of women around the world. Since the beginning of the holiday in 1978, there have been great advancements for women – particularly in tea. 2021 is the first year that I am personally celebrating Women’s History Month, a powerful platform for feminism. Feminism is defined as “the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.” There are major cultural shifts necessary to see this equality, which is why I urge everyone to look within themselves to understand the subtleties in our culture that are the backbone of sexism.

Gender roles for women versus men differ in the various tea producing countries, but one consistency remains: Women are not in places of leadership. We can celebrate the token women (such as myself) that are making an influence; but ultimately, we need to look at the distribution of labor and culture of sexualization of women in positions of tea: Plucking happily in the hills or gracefully serving a cup of hospitality. Tea plucking is very hard, unsexy work, and women belong at the boardroom table just as much as they belong at a tea table. We can affect this cultural norm by retelling the stories of all women in tea.

Women’s History Month in Tea - Author with a group of women tea workers

The main culprits of this cultural norm are subtleties which we will only become aware of if we hold space for sensitivities. For example, some may say that “you guys” is a common figure of speech to address both sexes, while some women (and men) may be offended and believe that new figures of speech should be used. This is only one example of an infinite number of other sensitivities in feminism.  It is important to listen to someone’s sensitivities instead of immediately defending the cultural norms. I believe the voices and stories of all women in tea will be heard if a safe place is provided for discussion around these subtleties.

We will not affect the gender roles in all the tea-growing and tea-drinking countries in the world, but through restorative culture and discussion we can take the steps to make a safe place for the stories of women to be heard. I am grateful that my stories have been heard and I look forward to mobilizing the stories of all women in tea. Every woman is doing the hard work to keep the tea flowing. Celebrate the movers and shakers and listen to the stories of the women keeping the families thriving at origin.

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