- Start having those difficult conversations
Of course, there are countless people in the world who can be challenged on their beliefs regarding women’s rights. Starting a dialogue with someone helps to unpack the real issues, whether it’s with your crazy uncle at the dinner table, or even with someone in your class or of a different culture. Try asking thought-provoking questions, seeing someone else’s point of view, or listening to what opponents have to say.
- Try squashing any sexist stigmas/stereotypes in your daily interactions
By confronting the sexism that exists in our daily lives, it really gives others a reality check. Some people may not even realize their own judgments, stereotypes, or predispositions until someone calls them out on the “why” or “how” aspect of their ideological positions. By doing this, it creates a sense of awareness and critical thinking on the part of others who may be unknowingly perpetuating sexism.
- Join a women’s organization
It’s important to support other women and stand up for a greater cause. When organizations accumulate massive waves of support, it really sets an agenda for lawmakers when the population can get behind a specific political cause. Becoming part of a women’s organization can provide a sense of empowerment, togetherness, strength, and support. For instance, going online to an organization’s website such as the one for the National Organization for Women: now.org is simple and easy. You can click the Join Now or Email Sign-Up links to get started. Websites like this one provide resources, blogs, voter mobilization links, information about global feminism, and so much more.
- Donate to Planned Parenthood
A great way to empower women and fight for equal rights is to help out the “largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S.,” said by Deborah Goldschmidt and Ashley Strickland of CNN as, “offering sexual and reproductive health care, education and outreach to nearly 5 million women, men, and adolescents annually worldwide” (CNN: Fast Facts and Revealing Numbers). Helping those in need of reproductive health care makes such a drastic difference in their lives.
- Call your representatives
How are our representatives supposed to know what we want if we don’t tell them? The process of representative democracy itself desperately depends on reaching out to our elected officials! They’re the ones who pass the laws and make the rules; by calling their office and emphasizing: “I am your constituent, I vote, and I care about this issue,” you catch their attention more than ever. Take action!
- Volunteer at a women’s shelter
Needless to say, domestic abuse is a huge problem in this country. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.” If this is a path to action that sounds interesting, volunteering at a shelter will make a very direct impact on those who desperately need it.
- Attend a peaceful protest or demonstration
This is definitely something ANYONE can do to help show support for women’s rights. Regardless of your gender or age, attending a women’s march, walkout demonstration, or protest in general with even with a group of friends or family, shows our public officials we care enough to come out during our very busy lives to speak out. And without question, men who come out to protest for women make an extremely loud statement. At the end of the day, feminism is not a “man vs. woman” issue. It’s an equality issue.
- Speak at a town hall meeting or committee hearing
Democracy thrives when we take action. By going directly to the source, by confronting and speaking to your committee leaders and legislative members makes a direct impact. If there’s a bill circulating in Congress that you disagree with, voice it. Don’t be afraid to make yourself heard or for people to disagree with you; that’s what democracy is all about.
- Read up on women’s history
Take a class! Do a scholarly Internet search. Go to a museum. Learn, learn, learn. Ask your grandmother or great-grandmother what it was like for her growing up. In the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “knowledge is power.” The best thing you can do to empower yourself is learn from the past and pave yourself a future from it.
- Teach young men and boys how to treat women
Children learn by example. It’s imperative that raising children in a very equal and respectful environment will make a huge difference in the way they grow to treat women in the future. In a perfect world, if we all raise our sons and grandsons to respect women and understand equal treatment, they will likely turn out to be feminists themselves.
- Teach young girls that they can do anything boys can
Show young girls their worth. Sit down your daughters and remind them that they are worth as much as boys. Encourage them to pursue engineering, sciences, and math. Introduce them to sports. Treat young girls the same way as boys and never let them doubt their worth in comparison to another gender.
- Provide strong female role models to kids
Characters such as Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen in books are strong female roles. Elsa and Anna from the film Frozen are also a wonderful role model for children, in addition to real figures in history like Rosa Parks, Cleopatra, or Malala Yousafzai. Teach them that women have changed the course of history, are independent, intelligent, capable, and worthy. Exposure to such characters at a young age is very impressionable and can set a permanent tone for a child’s perspective on the world (to both boys and girls)!
Gina is a member of Connecticut NOW and a senior political science and writing and rhetoric double major at the University of Rhode Island. Her interests involve women’s rights, animal welfare, immigration reform, environmental issues and foreign policy.