How to celebrate International Women's Day everyday
March 8, 2017
I was raised by strong women. I grew up watching these women navigate the world; they were unshakable and soft, fierce and kind, captivating and compassionate.
I was raised by nasty women.
All that lady magic laid the foundation for who I am, but it couldn't shield me from reality. I am not sure exactly when I became aware that being a woman means that I was “less than” to some people. Being raised around and by such strong women, it was never directly said. The idea of gender inequality was certainly never welcomed or accepted, but it crept in anyway. I don’t think there was any single moment but rather a stream of realizations. My eyes were opened, little by little, to the inadequacy the world wanted to place within women.
I saw it on television, I heard it in school, I experienced it in sports and clubs, and I felt it in social interactions and as I entered the working world. I learned it through my relationships. Both subtle and blatant sexism gently flooded my world – as it does.
I even perpetuated it. As an adolescent, I was a self-identified “tomboy," boasting that I got along better with boys, as if the gender of my friendships somehow elevated their worth. Many of these actions came from a place of gender non-conformity. I didn’t like the character assumptions that were put on young women so I rejected them. I was tough, both physical and emotionally, and I wanted to be seen as such.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized adolescent me was not making any strides for girls. In fact, it feels now that I was being quite anti-feminist. At the time I had valued those character assumptions for men as better, thus men as better overall. I associated femininity with weakness. I looked down on other women for their softness.
As I entered my teens and then my twenties, I had to navigate the complicated path that was my femininity. I had to reconcile the things I enjoyed, and now love about myself, that we traditionally associate as “feminine” behaviors.
Those strong women in my life grew even more important and it began to show. My friendships with women increased in both quantity and variety – and things began to shift. Somewhere during my journey, I learned it wasn’t my gender or femininity that was my enemy. It was the assumptions and the stereotypes. It was the value judgements. It was the patriarchy.
It was that thing that said my self-worth depended on how “masculine” or “feminine” I was.
F*** that thing...
F*** the patriarchy.
There was nothing better or worse about my friendships with men or women.
But I am sure glad I grew into those friendships with women, because some of them have provided me with more strength than I knew I was capable of. They’ve also led me to a better feminist – and thus a better person.
So, Happy International Women’s Day from this feminist to you. And remember, it’s okay if you’re still exploring and learning what feminism means to you. As demonstrated here, we all have our own journey.
If you’re wondering what you can do to act on or grow your feminism, here’s some simple, easy, dnd word-changing ways to do so:
1. Lift other women up regardless of their “femininity.” Meaning: it does not matter what we wear, what we eat, what we do for a living or what we enjoy – we’re all worthy, equal women. We are all human. When so many of the values our society praises are rooted in sexism and taught as such a young age, it can be hard to break out of that way of thought. Catch those judgments and explore where they’re coming from
2. Speak and act with gender equality in mind. Do you laugh at sexist jokes? Do you use phrases like “… like a girl,” or “grow a pair” or “man up!” and could you replace those phrases with something else? What we often see as harmless and funny is perpetuating larger stereotypes and gender inequality.
3. Recognize your privilege – listen, respect and empathize with folks when they’re sharing their stories. Feminism is intersectional. Feminism is for men, too. This means many of us united by feminism still have varying levels of privilege. A cis-gendered white woman, a trans woman, a black woman and a white male can all be feminists side by side but we’re all fighting different battles. Step one is always hearing people and asking about their experience.
4. Talk about it! Be proud of your feminism! Share it, spread it, explain it, teach it! Not sure if you’re being a “good” intersectional feminist? Ask! This goes back to #3: everything starts with hearing folks. At the end of the day, the conversation is most important. Be a part of the fight by keeping it in the forefront.
Got questions? Comments? How are you celebrating #InternationalWomensDay? Comment below!