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What do we need to do to empower women at home and around the world? In the grand scale of things, we know the answer. Encourage women to become leaders, fight child marriage, create workplaces that give the same privileges to employees regardless of gender, the list goes on. But how can we, as normal people, positively contribute to the fight for gender equality? Here are a handful of reminders we should all keep in mind, regardless of our gender, political affiliation or background. 

1. Listen

When it comes to a sensitive topic like gender equality, 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. Have a conversation and see if there's something you could learn.

2. Stop Judging, You Judger

Here’s a secret: women get judged. A lot. 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.”

3. 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 (bonus points if they are also people of color). Often, women artists receive less publicity than their male counterparts so don’t assume that just because you haven’t heard of many they’re not out there. Be intentional about supporting women and under-represented artists, and try something new. 

4. 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. But guess what? The conversation’s not about you. Podcast guru Justin McElroy offered the following advice to an anonymous listener who found it difficult to strike up conversations with people they didn't know or had little in common with: “Find out something they're interested in and ask questions." It's that simple.

5. If You Hear Something, Say Something

There are a thousand tiny little ways that sexism rears its ugly head. You can 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. 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. 

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