Edited by Oishiki Ganguly
The week surrounding International Women’s day is one of the best weeks every year. It’s a week in which the stories of thousands of exceptional women are celebrated everywhere you look, both online and offline. However, I’ve noticed scores of individuals feel disappointed when at the end of the week, the celebration abruptly stops. Once the day is over and the marketing schemes are done and dusted, the women too are no longer commemorated. That’s when I realised how important it is to talk about how we can inculcate these celebrations in our everyday lives to uplift this community. Everyone knows that empowerment and support go hand in hand. However, while there are many people who strongly support the wonderful women of the world, there are times when they struggle to show it. Expressing this support is just as important as feeling it and takes you one crucial step forward, crossing the threshold from support into empowerment. The best part is that these steps don’t need to be complicated at all! Here are 5 practices to include in your daily routine (which might help the women around you more than you realise):
1. Encourage your female classmates
The classroom is a place where some women find their most empowered self. Learning can make you feel like your best version, but a toxic and competitive environment can take that experience away from you at the drop of a hat. Recently, my friends pointed out to me that more often than not, it’s our female classmates who end their sentences with “I don’t know if that makes sense” or “I think that may be wrong.” We’ve all been there, particularly in cis-male dominated classes. A recent study published by Gender & Society shows that the male students of elite universities are more likely to speak without permission and interrupt discussions than the rest of the class. The same result was found in a study done by graduate students of Columbia University. Moreover, the male students discredit the opinions of their female classmates and struggle to explain their viewpoints without mansplaining. It should come as no surprise, then, that the female students feel discouraged from talking in class at all, no matter how great their ideas may be. This is why it’s important to remember that the only way of cleansing this environment is by extending your support whenever you can. Something as trivial as commenting, “I think that’s a great point you brought up!” whenever you hear someone being unsure of themselves will always leave them more confident to speak the next time. Even nudging your friend into talking about their points can make them feel more strongly about their opinions. Just try your best to ensure they feel acknowledged.
2. Distribute responsibilities
If your heart breaks a little when you watch your mother finish household chores on her days off from her extremely strenuous job, express your concerns to other family members! It’s no secret that women who run households are synonymous with superheroes, but that doesn’t mean we should constantly rely on them to save the world. Encourage everyone in your house to take on more responsibilities, even if that means eating your father’s crappy cooking for a few days till he learns the correct proportions. This may lead to a few uncomfortable conversations with certain family members, but we can’t get rid of traditional misogynistic practices without a few awkward conversations that start at home. Even serving yourself food and washing your own dishes is a good start. As much as our mothers (and other female parental figures) love to look out for us, they definitely deserve time for themselves as well.
3. Talk about being a Feminist
For most feminists, this is an effortless step to follow, because who doesn’t love to talk about bettering the world? However, some of our allies (again, unfortunately, mostly cis-males in my personal experience) have trouble speaking up about their support because of the mockery they face. I’m talking about that classic “Feminazi” attack we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives (why wouldn’t you compare a community working towards establishing equal rights with one that worked towards destroying equal rights? It only makes sense). Remind these allies: A lot of the people who demean feminists are often the same ones who don’t entirely understand our fight. The first step here should always be to calmly sit them down and explain what it means to be a feminist, that women’s rights are part and parcel of human rights. Explain that we are not taking away their place in the world, only ensuring an equal place for us. These individuals are so caught up in justifying “not all men” that they seem to forget that the biggest cause we are fighting for is “but all women.” If beyond this they refuse to understand, then honestly, you know better than to keep these people in your life. Harsh, I know, but it’s important to rid your life of these bullies and stop silencing yourself due to fear of the same oppressors you wish to rise above. You’ll feel better, free and more yourself than ever before. More importantly, you’ll be empowering yourself as well as your cause.
4. Stay up to date on gender-based issues (and speak up about them!)
It’s easy for us to forget the horrors of the world when we live in our bubble and even easier to say “Things are getting better” when we aren’t personally affected by these horrors anymore. Not only is the quality of life of cis-women still significantly worse than that of cis-men, but in addition to this, the trans and non-binary community are still constantly denied the rights they are entitled to. Remember that the fight isn’t over yet and stay updated on the pertinent issues. This can be extremely difficult due to the overwhelming magnitude of problems, but that’s all the more reason to stay alert for opportunities where you can help out. Further, start conversations on these issues, no matter how tough it may seem. However, remember to keep your mental health a priority. Every soldier needs to rest, no matter how valiant.
5. Check your own bias
This one is probably the most difficult habit to instil. A lot of us assume that being part of a community automatically washes away all the biases we may have once held against this community. This is far from the truth. Our prejudices can stem subconsciously as easily as they can consciously, but neither is acceptable. Check if you’re judging the women around you according to their physical appearance, race, background, sexual preference etc. Even if we can say “No,” out loud with every inch of confidence in our body, we would all be better off with a bit of daily introspection. This is not to say we shouldn’t acknowledge differences, that would be impossible. However, what’s important is that we don’t let these acknowledgements play a biased role in our judgement or behaviour regarding these women. Trust me, this will get easier over time. Sooner or later you’ll realise that incredible women come in all varieties! It’s the best.
These are just a few, easy to follow, everyday tips. There are countless other things you can do, and on much larger scales, to show your support to this extraordinary faction of our society. What matters is that you start somewhere, and a good place to start is always with yourself. The most important thing is to remember that this community thrives on its differences. Even the most contrasting personalities from yours will always have your back, just as you should have theirs. In the powerful and everlasting words of Amy Santiago, “We can be different and still have the same cause!”