It’s been a long time since I’ve written. But seeing as today is not only International Women’s Day, but also a #DayWithoutAWoman, this blog is a part of my protest and hopefully my first blog back after a couple months hiatus, so here goes.
Coordinated by the leaders of the Women’s March, today during #ADayWithoutWomen, women are called upon to wear red as a symbol of revolutionary change and love, refuse to engage in both paid and unpaid work, and refrain from shopping, or shop only at local businesses or business owned by women and minorities.
This protest has the potential to make a huge statement if our lawmakers, employers and general society take careful notice. Still, there are many women, myself included, who cannot afford to take off an entire day of paid work.
So, I want to begin this blog by telling all the pussy hat wearing females out there, going into work today makes you no less of a badass woman or feminist. We are all in different spaces, and our realities and the risks of engaging in this type of strike are different for each woman, especially women of color, immigrant women and single mothers.
That being said, whether you find yourself at work, at home, protesting on the streets or in any of the endless spaces women inhabit, I wanted to create a short list of action steps women (and their allies) can take into today and beyond.
Tomorrow, #ADayWithoutAWoman will be over and we will continue on living, moving and working in the world as women. So to continue the momentum of #ADayWithoutAWoman and the liberation and equality it calls for consider the following practices.
- Apologize less. Most women know what I’m talking about. As much of a feminist as I am, I am constantly using phrases like, “I’m sorry to bother you,” “I’m sorry, but” “I’m sorry, can I ask a question.” Basically any time I want to add my opinion, ask a question or give an idea, I am tempted to apologize for that opinion, question or idea. So ladies, if this is a problem for you, let’s start apologizing less, and taking ownership and pride in our voice and the voice of other women. This leads me to the next practice.
- Empower your fellow women and amplify their voice. When our fellow female coworkers, friends and community members speak up, or lead, support them. A simple example can be found in former President Obama’s staff meetings. Recently female staff members explained how they engaged in “amplification.” Basically, when a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author, forcing the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own (Quote from Washington Post Article). This is a great strategy to ensure women are heard, valued and respected. After all, many women know what it is like to share an idea or suggestion and have it brushed off only for a male to offer that same suggestion 5 minutes later. So ladies, when one of us has the courage to speak up and offer our voice, talents and suggestions let’s support one another and give credit. That way, we all rise together.
- Speaking of empowerment. . .DON’T SHAME OTHER WOMEN. Feminism means different things and looks different for each woman. At the end of the day feminism is the belief that women have the same rights and human dignity as men, and should be treated that way in every sphere of life. If you believe this, you are a feminist. There is no lengthy checklist women must meet to consider themselves a feminist. So let’s not shame other women for their choices in career, dress, parenting, religion etc. Again if we want equality for all, we must show respect, love and equality toward each other.
- Don’t make yourself smaller. I mean this in a variety of ways. Often women have this tendency to try to occupy the least amount of space as possible. We often make ourselves smaller, quieter and more agreeable for the men in the room, or on the subway, the sidewalk, the elevator etc. Another way we may make ourselves smaller is by how we dress, so as not to bring too much negative attention to our body and gender, and for this I have a story:One time I wore a new dress to work. It was on sale, fit well, looked professional, I was so pumped. But it wasn’t an hour into work before a man came up to me and told me I look like “Professional Barbie” and a corporate secretary (P.S that’s not my job). I was deflated and truth be told it took me a while to wear that outfit to work again, even though it made me feel confident. The words of this man seemed to expose and exploit my confidence in a way that took advantage of my gender. After all I doubt he would ever say my male co-workers look like professional Ken. His words made rethink my right to confidence and left me self-conscious both in my body and in that dress.
So ladies, as hard as it is, let’s unapologetically feel confident in our bodies, in being seen and in taking up space. Don’t make yourself small. If you find your space challenged in the workplace, at home or in public do not apologize for your work, value and existence. Though it is difficult, give your voice and body the strength and respect it deserves, because unfortunately many will not respect it for you. Let’s have some self-love ladies.
- Speaking of self-love . . .Express your needs. Sharing your needs and desires with others, especially in the workplace can feel dangerous and exposing, especially as women battle the double standard of being labeled bossy, needy, weak, high maintenance or emotional if they express themselves and their needs. However, too often women are taught to “suffer in silence” and bear the burden of being “superwoman” alone. We are often taught the comfort of men and our families comes at the expense of our own mental, emotional and physical well being, and that to be a good woman is to people please and not make waves. But I’m suggesting if you need time off work, ask; if you learn your male colleague makes more than you, demand a raise; if you need some time from the house or kids, take it. Society will let women work themselves into the ground and then ask why we are so emotional, tired or angry. Take care of yourself even if it makes the people around you uncomfortable.
- Shop local and support women owned businesses. This is one #ADayWithoutAWoman is advocating for, but who says we can’t make it a regular practice?
- Be in contact with your representatives. Stay current on potential laws and bills that may harm women specifically. If you come across a law that targets and limits the freedom of a woman, ANY woman including women of color, trans women, women in prison, immigrant women, etc, then share your frustrations, concerns and anger with your government officials. You can search for your elected officials and get their contact information here.
- Learn! Learn about feminism, learn about social constructs involving gender, learn to critically think. And, equally as important, learn about intersectionality. Take time to learn about different streams of feminism, and the endless variety of women, the challenges they face and their realities. Feminism has a history of advocating primarily for the white middle class cis-gendered woman, excluding MANY women in the process. Take time to learn about womanism, chicana feminism and other cultural feminism. Learn about transfeminism and eco-feminism. Learn all about these not to be overwhelmed, but to remember that the experiences and identities of women are vast, and if we are to seek justice for women we need to be in partnership will all women. We need to listen, learn and allow ourselves to be led by each other.
- Support LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations. Homophobia and discrimination toward LGBTQ+ people is largely rooted in hyper-masculinity and the anxiety surrounding gender roles. Society likes categories and projects specific characteristics for men to adhere to and specific characteristics for women to adhere to. Part of the work of feminism is to break out of these social constructs of what it “means to be and act like a woman.” By doing that and complexifiying gender roles and femaleness, feminism can in turn address the anxiety a patriarchal society feels about maintaining its masculinity. When “what it means to be woman” and “what it means to be male” are complexified, we can then unravel the discrimination toward LGBTQ+ persons, discrimination that relies on “traditional” gender roles and heterosexual relationships as rationales for discrimination. So give to organizations that support LGBTQ+ rights, speak out when laws threaten these rights, listen to the stories and struggles of LGBTQ+ persons, and find ways to be an effective ally.
So here is just a brief list, a scratching of the surface if you will. Remember, feminism is complex and each one of these points could be their own blogpost. In addition, this list is by no means exhaustive, and chances are I’ll add to it over time. Also, feel free to leave additional suggestions on how to engage in everyday feminism in the comments section!
For now, just know on this #DayWithoutWomen, no matter what, you are valued, and you will be valued tomorrow. Let’s continue to work to be seen, to be empowered and to claim our space and dignity.