by Maja Staka
International Women’s Day, which we proudly celebrated on Thursday, March 8th, is a day of recognition meant to support women and their contributions to society, history and global culture. After all, the moment which began as a simple garment worker’s strike in New York where women protested working conditions in 1908 ended up both sparking the Russian Revolution in 1917 and ushering in an age of suffragettes which called for a new and revolutionary equality between the sexes. Evidently, women harbor significant power, and this power has allowed us to rebel, riot and find our voices in patriarchal societies while dismantling the tools which hold the patriarchy together so solidly.
A hundred years later, you could say that this dynamic power remains ours to yield. This year alone, we’ve seen countless movements aimed at gender equality being celebrated under hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp , showing that the global consciousness surrounding women’s issues is growing and that equality and women’s rights aren’t topics to be ignored or considered passé. However, behind all these accolades and cultural transformations, there remains a problem that has yet to be solved. The problem of women who tear down other women.
I’m talking about the female bosses who tell their women employees to “stick to what they’re good at” instead of giving them the go-ahead to expand on their talents or change departments, the female journalists who purposefully victimize the women they interview by making them sound stupider for “the story” (or so their male editors don’t get mad) and ANY woman who reduces another woman’s accomplishments, throws their friends or co-workers under the bus for their own economic benefit or demeans another human being for looking or acting differently than them. These women, although socially conditioned to act they way they do, are holding us all back.
Simply put, the faster women begin supporting other women and refusing to take part in any kind of sexist rhetoric or movement, the faster this rhetoric will disappear from mainstream discourse, and the closer we’ll be to equality. While I’m not telling you to make a sign and start parading around the street naked, supporting the women around you should become part of your daily life.
First, find ways to be kinder to the women around you, starting with your workplace. Be kind to the college intern, the older intern, the single mom who leaves early to pick her kids up from school and the new girl who constantly asks you questions. They’re all just trying to live their lives and provide for themselves.
Be honest with your female friends when you think they’re being abused, mistreated or unfairly critiqued. But also, be honest with them if you know they’re being harsh, unfair or catty with another person. Similarly, take a stand against stereotypes of women or jokes made on any woman’s expense which have no place in our present or future – even if you don’t understand why the joke or stereotype in question is offensive. It is to another woman, and you’re better than apathy. We all are.
If you’re in a position of power, give every woman who works with you the chance to speak and reach for her own stars. Educate yourself on women’s issues, on minorities in your community, on ways to support women of color, trans women and non-cisgender women while being sympathetic to the unique issues they face in their daily lives. Listen to their concerns. Never stand in the way of their voice. Never blame them for any discrimination they face and be humble when you need to be.
Listen to every woman who says they’ve been sexually assaulted without interrupting or mentioning what they *should* have been wearing or what they could have done *better*, because these comments will only make the human being you’re talking to more afraid to share their experiences in the future. Repeat with me – IT IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT.
Understand that not everything is about YOU, it’s about all of us. And instead of forcing your opinion on women who have less of a voice, simply ask them how you can help and then follow through with their requests or suggestions. Always follow through.
Lastly, be kind to yourself! Forget what makes others uncomfortable. Wear what you want, stick to your own damn care schedule and allow yourself to be emotional – this means crying when YOU want and when it feels natural for YOU, not behind closed doors or in a corporate bathroom stall. Celebrate yourself, my fellow woman. For you are valuable and loved.
And so you should be.
Banner image courtesy of Pixabay.