When the media headlines are filled with stories about shocking natural disasters, and horrifying stories about injustices all over the world, it can be challenging to focus our attention on how to make a difference for women. With information about so many newsworthy items practically streaming from our fingertips every moment of the day, we all sometimes feel helpless as to how we can do anything at all to make things better for women. When we read about the brutalization of women in Afghanistan, or the epidemic of eating disorders in Argentina, or the rape and murder of women worldwide– it’s, at the very least, daunting to know where to dig in and find our role in the project of building a better world.
One thing we can do is begin to shed the outdated language and tired dialogue about “saving the world” that seems to paralyze us. As author and feminist Courtney E. Martin writes in her article “Do It Anyway: The Top 10 Ways that the Next Generation is Shifting Activism“, “Young people are abandoning the “save the world” rhetoric we were raised with and seeking out a more practical, complex analysis of social change. We don’t want to “save the world.” We’re too smart to think we can. We want to live in it — flawed, fierce, loving, and humble.” By letting go of an idea that only bogs us down, we’ll have more space to navigate both our personal and our generation’s capabilites and flaws while pushing the feminist movement forward. By acknowledging the overwhelming weight of needing to save the world, we’ll have more power to cultivate audaciousness in our singular actions and creativity in our collective conversations.
All that said, I know I’m not alone in wanting to feel there are ways that I can help women right now. That urgency should motivate us. We all want women’s voices to be heard, sex trafficking, rape, violence and sexualt assault against women to end, women’s positions in government around the world to become equal to those of men. We demand more freedom to make our own decisions about our bodies, our pregnancies, and our sex lives. We all want our relationships with our partners to value love, authentic connection and not legitimize rigid, archaic gender roles or layers of sexism.
We have to first believe (and really, truly believe) we can do something, anything, about the issues that make our hearts sink and swell and beat faster. Then, we have to take action right now, however small, to begin to shape the issue for the better. And, so, here it is: I want to know what you think we can do today that will help women. I want to know what are the small things that we can all do this afternoon that may make the communities we inhabit (our neighborhoods, our apartments, our offices, our classes, our families) more progressive, safe, and life-affirming for women.
Here are some answers I received when I asked several amazing and inspiring feminists this one question:
Can you think of one small thing a person could do in their daily routine tomorrow that could benefit or help advance feminism, women’s human rights and/or gender equality?
- “Make it a habit to speak up when you see sexism happening. This isn’t really one small thing, but a series of small things, because sexism happens all around us every day. Maybe you’ll see a guy catcall a woman on the street on your way to work. Maybe a friend will make a sexist joke when you’re out at lunch. Maybe you’ll get home and turn on the TV and see a reality show that depicts women as hot, dumb gold-diggers or a commercial that enforces a violent, homophobic version of masculinity. Sexism is all around us, and it’s our job to identify it and object to it when we see it. Of course, you need to find a way to do it that makes you comfortable; nobody wants to be the sexism police twenty-four seven. But if you can find a way to do it, you’ll find the culture around you changing, and that can be a deeply satisfying change to watch.” — Chloe S. Angyal, Contributor, Feministing
- “Smile. I know it sounds simple, but consider smiling at other women. All of them. Imagine them to be your sister or your mother, and smile. If the opportunity arises, extend a geuine compliment, too. With a simple act like this, every day, perhaps our human connections will grow stronger. Conversations that may change your mind about the world can begin with a smile. Just try it” -Anonymous feminist blogger
- As a teenage feminist, I’ve found that the action I take in my daily life that has the most impact is calling out sexism when I see or hear it. Especially in high school, phrases like “that’s so gay” and jokes about women in the kitchen (just to name a few examples) are abundant. Instead of choosing to stand by – and thus indicating that I’m okay with such sentiments – I let it be known that saying sexist and/or homophobic things is unacceptable. It’s amazing how simply speaking out can change people’s opinions and makes them more aware of what they say and how they act. -Julie Zeilinger, founder and editor of The Fbomb (thefbomb.org).
- “If you see something that enrages you about the way women are being treated, tell (at least) five people. If you see something inspiring and beautiful about the glory of being a woman today, tell (at least) five people. Start conversations with people you wouldn’t normally. Tonight, at dinner, tell your friends about a woman who you find to be empowering and brilliant. And don’t forget to tell your guy friends. They will probably want to hear about it more than you think”- Anonymous feminist teacher
- “Stop Referring to Grown Women as Girls. My roommate and I were meeting with the owner of our building. He called the manager of the property and said, “The girls are in here. Come join us.” Once he hung up, we reminded him we were professional women, not preschoolers. In that moment along with feeling disrespected, I also wondered had I contributed to this problem. I call my female friends my girls. When passionately telling them stories, I may preface an answer with “girl.” I now wonder about the psychological impact of holding on to a title of girl well past adolescence. And it seems “my girls” may not have been the only ones listening. Now the colloquial term seems to have been co-opted to now treat us child-like. So, I am giving up the word “girl” to refer to my adult friends. There are so many words to describe my amazing, intelligent and empowered sister friends. -Charreah Jackson, Associate Editor at Heart & Soul Magazine
Now I’d love to hear your input, your words, and your ideas, too. What else can we do, right now, for women?