Women’s rights are human rights, and we need more men on board. Lots of men are distanced from the feminist movement because there is this assumption that men have no place in a conversation surrounding women’s issues, but that simply is not the case. Not only do we want men involved in the conversation, we want them lifting us up and standing beside us marching in the streets. If you have a daughter, mother, grandmother, girlfriend, wife, or sister, then this is your fight too.
On January 21, 2017, we saw five million people across the globe march in the Women’s March on Washington for solidarity and intersectional feminism, uniting people of all genders, sexual orientations, political views, religions, and ethnicities. If you are interested in joining this historic global movement, here is a list of things you can do in your everyday life to make a difference and bring about equality for all.
1. First and foremost: embrace the “F” word. Don’t be shy. Shamelessly call yourself a feminist. Feminism by definition is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. What’s shameful about fighting for equality? The quicker we get rid of the stigma surrounding this word, the quicker we can get down and dirty with solving real problems.
2. Be as bi-partisan as possible. If you are part of a political party, try stepping away from this “us vs. them” mentality. You will be more open to the diverse ways of approaching a problem if you look at issues and topics from many angles rather than as black and white issues. The world is not full of polar opposites but rather diverse and complex ways of living and thinking.
3. Free boys and men from the “man box”. Gender stereotypes are not just damaging for women. Whilst women are taught to be fragile, quiet, and submissive, on the flip side we have men being conditioned to be “manly”, tough, and dominant. Back in 2014 at a special event for the HeForShe campaign, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gave a powerful speech and said “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”
4. Remove harmful phrases and words from your vocabulary. Language is an incredibly underestimated tool for oppression. It’s important for all of us, women included, to stop using language that further marginalize women. Consider discouraging these words and phrases: “Bitch, cunt, slut, whore, bossy, man-up, be a man, grab life by the balls, you have balls to do that, throw like a girl, scream like a girl, fight like a girl, cry like a girl, run like a girl, (basically fill in the blank_____like a girl) sit like a lady, be a lady, cross your legs, etc“
5. Identify that we are living in a rape culture. According to the United Nations, 1 in 4 women in the US will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, and worldwide the ratio is 1 in 3. We cannot brush this off as simply just “the way things are”. This is a serious problem that humanity needs to tackle and overcome.
6. Teach your kids about consent or encourage schools to educate students on the importance of consent and respect. In order to prevent violence against women, we can teach young people to grow up respecting each other, respecting themselves, and understanding that harassment, rape, and abuse are unacceptable. Use this incredible British video which humorously relates tea to sexual consent as a tool for getting the message across to young people so we are raising conscious humans.
7. Boycott or speak out against media, films, and music that objectify women or incite violence towards women. The media can play a huge role in reinforcing dangerous oppressive ideologies. If you have kids, pay attention to the content which you are surrounding them with. Is it encouraging objectification of women, or is it empowering them? Pay attention to how these mediums are shaping our culture and affecting our views of both women and men.
8. Embrace and encourage diversity in the workplace and in politics. Support the inclusion of women in business, organizations, or government. We need diversity of thought in order to tackle things like oppression, climate change, and poverty, and we cannot do this without our women at the forefront of change. Encourage your business partners to bring more women into the Board Room, encourage your daughter to run for office, or support initiatives that encourage inclusion.
9. Allow women to breastfeed in public. By shaming women for breast feeding in public, we are telling women that the most basic ancestral human nurturing act—feeding milk to a newborn—is a “nasty” thing to do. We have objectified women so far that her breasts are now only seen as sexual objects, and anytime she shows her chest she is committing a shameful, dirty act that only belongs in private. Ironically, both sexes have nipples, and half the entire global population is required to cover them up. The sooner we accept that women are more than just their bodies, the sooner we can break through the inequality that exists for women’s health care, maternity rights, and the right for a woman to make her own decisions about her body with her doctor.
10. Understand the meaning of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the idea that when it comes to oppression and discrimination there are often intersecting social issues of various identities at play. From a feminist point of view, we cannot address women’s rights without addressing issues related to poverty, race, gender, religion, rights of those with disabilities, LGBTQ rights, and even environmental issues. By rising up the woman, you are ultimately advancing humanity and working to unravel a multi-faceted issue of human rights.