International Women's Day (March 8th) is a day set aside for all of us to ponder: what do we need to do to empower women at home and around the world? On a grand scale, we know the answers. Support and elect women leaders, fight child marriage, create workplaces that give the same privileges to employees regardless of gender, fight for women’s rights and reproductive health, the list goes on. But how can we positively contribute to the fight for gender equity this International Women's Day and beyond? Here are a handful of reminders we should all keep in mind, regardless of our gender, political affiliation or background.
Listen and Learn
When it comes to a sensitive topic like gender equity, conversations can get really heated really quickly. Active listening is an increasingly essential skill. When you enter into a conversation about women’s issues, don’t do so with the intent to convince the other person that you are right. It’s all too easy to get into an online or IRL screaming match. I’ve done both recently, and it’s made me ask myself … why? What’s the point? Do you hear things that are different than your personal experiences? Don’t automatically dismiss the opposing point of view. When you hear something you disagree with, instead of a busting out a quick rebuttal, try asking this question instead, "Why is that important to you?" Have a conversation and see if there's something you could learn. Your conversational partner might learn a little something, too, if approached with openess.
Active listening sounds simple in theory, but it's really hard in the moment. Here are some links to help you get started:
Stop Judging, You Judger
In case you haven't heard: women get judged. A lot. By men AND by fellow women. From the clothes we wear to our relationship status to our career choices, women already face a barrage of silent (or not-so-silent) criticism. Stop the cycle! Instead of criticizing a woman’s choices, try saying, “It’s not for me, but good for her,” and exercising empathy when the circumstances of her life aren’t the same as yours–which is 100 percent of the time.
Not convinced? Don't take it just from us:
Try Something New
Picture your bookshelf. Your Netflix queue. Your music library. How many women have contributed to your favorite media? If your answer is “tons!” then pat yourself on the back! If your answer is “not very many,” then get ye to the internet! Do some research and intentionally find women authors, musicians and directors. Often, women artists receive less publicity and less credit for their work than their male counterparts so don’t assume that just because you haven’t heard of many they’re not out there or that they aren’t worth listening to. Be intentional about supporting women and under-represented artists, and be vocal about their talent.
Not sure where to start? Try here:
- 48 Books By Women and Nonbinary Authors of Color to Read Now
- The Women-Directed Movies to Watch Right Now
- 25 Women to Read Before You Die
- 13 Podcasts by Women You Should Be Listening to Right Now
- Search "Women" in Spotify and you will find more playlists than you know what to do with: Women of Jazz, Women of Rock, Women of Hip Hop...get listening!
Talk To The Women Around You
“But Bethany,” I hear you say. “I hate small talk. I can’t stand talking to new people, it is so awkward!” To you, I say, “Join the club.” I could (gently) throw a (small) rock out my window hit someone who really, really hates small talk. And, if you’re a guy, you could feel even weirder about randomly striking up a conversation with a female co-worker or acquaintance. But guess what? The conversation’s not about you. Podcast guru Justin McElroy offered the following advice to an anonymous young male listener who found it difficult to strike up conversations with his older female colleagues: “Find out something they're interested in and ask questions." It's that simple.
If You Hear Something, Say Something
There are a thousand tiny little ways that sexism rears its ugly head. You can and should address those things. Did your friend see a girl in shorts and call her a slut? A brief “dude, that’s not cool” will do. If they get mad, they get mad. Does your bro comment on girls’ bodies? Call him out on it. Does a family member spout false information about women’s health or mental capacity? Take the time to correct them. This can also extend to your life online. Did you know that women receive death threats in public forums? Actual death threats. Go out of your way to report the offender and support the woman being harassed.
Read more about it:
Show Up and Share the Microphone
Support candidates who support women’s health rights, vote women into your local government, volunteer at at organizations supporting women's issues. Show yourself to be an ally for women around the world. Gender equity doesn't just make things better for women, it makes the world better for everyone. So let's get out there and support each other.
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