I consider myself a proud feminist. Today is International Women’s Day. Facebook, Twitter and newsfeeds everywhere are filled with positive comments about the day. I should be thrilled, but I’m not. Personally, I am more than a little put off.
In the United States, we have a president who is an unqualified, inexperienced male chauvinist pig. He bragged about sexually assaulting women and was accused of raping a young girl. Despite all this, and much more, he was elected president over a highly qualified woman. He was elected by many of the people who today are “celebrating” International Women’s Day. Many of them held a woman candidate to a different standard than they held her male counterparts. So, I am having a hard time appreciating their recognition of this day.
Many companies and nonprofit organizations also are joining in the celebration of International Women’s Day. Yet, they still have boards of directors and corporate leadership that is dominated by men. Many of their female employees are paid less than their male counterparts for the same work. Their recognition of this day feels a little disingenuous.
And, of course, our elected officials, who at virtually every level of government are overwhelmingly male, are also celebrating the day, while many of them work to undermine women’s rights. That is very offensive to me.
So instead of posting platitudes about women one day a year, I hope everyone celebrating today will examine what they are really doing to make the world a better place to live, work and play for all women.
Here’s some suggestions:
- Give careful thought to who you vote for. Learn the issues. Support qualified women seeking office at all levels of government. Support them not just with words, but with a financial commitment and with your time. And hold male candidates to the same standard you hold female candidates.
- Understand all sides of political and legislative issues and hold your elected officials accountable for their decisions that affect women. Don’t let them treat women like second class citizens or endanger their health and well-being. Let them know it is unacceptable to harm any woman–citizen or not.
- Call, write and meet with elected officials at all levels of government. If they are not available, meet with their staff. And when the next election comes, hold your elected representatives accountable for their actions. Don’t listen to their soundbites, don’t vote just along party lines. Look at how your representatives actually voted and cast your vote against them if they voted against women.
- When you see sexism or discrimination, speak out. That includes when you are walking down the street and you see a young woman being cat-called or harassed. Speak up and speak out against it. If you see a woman being harassed because of her religion, speak up and stand with her. If female work colleagues are not being given equal opportunity or equal treatment, speak up and demand change.
- Be aware of which companies actually have significant numbers of women in leadership roles and well represented on their boards of directors. For those that do, support them. For those that don’t, let them know that their lack of appropriate female representation has influenced your buying decisions. And, don’t settle for one or two women on the corporate board or in leadership. Women make up more than half the population and more than half the college graduates. It’s high-time that they represent a significant portion of corporate and charitable boards and leadership positions.
- Demand respect for women from everyone in your life. Sexist comments aren’t appropriate or funny anywhere or anytime. Don’t let people in your life get away with calling women names or demeaning their appearance because they disagree with a position a woman has taken or a comment she has made.
- Support women’s reproductive rights. If abortion or the use of birth control is against your religion, don’t have an abortion or don’t use birth control, but don’t force your religious beliefs on other women. Our Constitution guarantees a separation of Church and State – respect it. You want to be able to make your choice about having children. It’s your civil right. Like it or not, the courts have ruled that reproductive choice is part of every woman’s civil rights. If you don’t want the government to tell you that you can’t have kids, then support other women in their choice of whether or not to have children, no matter what your religious beliefs. Don’t suppress their civil rights and don’t sentence them to the horrors of back alley abortionists. The choice to have children has a bigger impact on a woman’s financial independence and life direction than anything else. So it’s important that the choice belongs to the individual woman.
- Stop commenting on women’s clothes, hairstyles, shoes, make-up, etc. You probably don’t make similar comments about men and their attire or appearance, so don’t make them about women.
- Stop holding women to a different standard than you do men.
- Be a proud feminist.
# # #