Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate our progress in the fight for gender equity. Women and girls disproportionately face so many struggles in our society, like violence, sexual harassment, the gender pay gap, period poverty, and underrepresentation. It’s important for us to address these issues, be allies, and educate ourselves. Here are four important ways to support and empower women and embrace gender equity:
1. Educate yourself and others about women’s struggles.
Before working to change society, educate yourself about the challenges that women face. Read up on issues affecting both cisgender and transgender women, and learn how to best respond to the unequal (and sometimes downright frightening) situations that women often find themselves in. When people make comments devaluing women’s abilities, don’t be afraid to remind them that using womanhood as an insult hurts everyone. Understanding and explaining how certain derogatory comments about women perpetuate negative stereotypes can be more powerful than you think — it can even change other’s perspectives about women.
2. Reflect on your own attitude towards women.
It’s also important to reflect on your own biases surrounding women and dig deeply to figure out what influenced them. Even if you live as a woman, this step is important because internalized sexism is extremely prevalent. For instance, do your fellow women intimidate you? Society often conditions women to compete against each other, so this may be internalized oppression at play. After you reflect, work on minimizing these thoughts and actions. Remind yourself that the narrative society creates about women isn’t the whole truth and try to unlearn your biases.
3. Empower the women around you (and yourself!)
Society loves to pit women against each other, but what if we all supported women instead? If you’re a woman, make sure that you encourage, listen to, and believe your fellow women. Even if you don’t identify as a woman, you can listen to women’s challenges, ask open-ended questions, and support them while recognizing that you’ll never fully understand their struggles. Hype up the women in your life when they succeed (yourself included!), and be empathetic when they struggle without making their challenges about yourself.
4. Take action in your everyday life.
Now that you’ve educated yourself about the issues that affect women and have also reflected on your own biases, it’s time to take action. This action can happen on the structural or the interpersonal level, but it can all make a tremendous difference for women.
Since many women are affected by gender-based violence, you can learn how to respond to domestic violence.
For example, if you witness a woman whose partner is abusing her, try to seek medical attention immediately. If she faced sexual abuse, insist on a Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) test within 72 hours.
After, if she feels comfortable enough to do so, go to a police station with the survivor and give her the space to explain what happened. Make sure that the survivor keeps a copy of this report to share with other service providers so that she won’t have to repeat details of the violence. Organizations like the Office on Women’s Health can support you with resources.
Make sure that the survivor has a place to stay too. You can offer space in your own home or contact local women’s shelters and social service agencies.
If the survivor needs more support and someone to talk to, you can provide resources for 24-hour hotlines, such as Women Helping Women and Women in Distress.
You can also take action in your workplace.
Whether you’re a supervisor or an employee, make sure that you review workplace policies about sexual harassment and gender discrimination. When you do, you’ll have access to the correct proper reporting procedures for the instances when women face harassment or gender discrimination. If some of the reporting procedures are outdated, be sure to share your concerns with your Human Resources department.
Of course, it’s also important to make sure that women feel comfortable advancing in their careers in your workplace. Work to change your office’s culture so that women feel safe enough to apply to leadership positions and follow their dreams.
If you’re in school, be sure to review your school’s sexual harassment policies.
If you feel like a professor or fellow student is discriminating against you or unfairly targeting you because of your gender, you can report your experience to the college, and the department that addresses gender discrimination will conduct an investigation. Furthermore, if a fellow student is experiencing something similar, let them know that this resource can help them.
You can also amplify your voice in the fight for women’s rights.
Organize campaigns, attend protests around the city and participate in social media campaigns for International Women’s Day. You can even write to your politicians about legislation that unfairly affects women and demand change.
Above all else, speak out on the issues that affect women today and work to instill change. After all, women need to stick together and support each other — and when we support women, the effects will last far beyond International Women’s Day.
Featured Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash.