Courtney Jones

International Women’s Day

2019-03-08

Today is one of the, if not the, most important day of the year. Today is a day of reflection, learning, progress, and action. As cliche as it may sound, today is a day where we must really reflect on how far we’ve come, and critically analyze how far we need to go.

Women have come so far in the past hundred years. We have fought for and won the right to own property, be recognized by the law as people (as opposed to property), and vote. Women are now outnumbering men in achieving undergraduate education. In Canada, we have a gender-balanced cabinet. In the United States, there are a record number of women in congress (and perhaps a record number of women running for president as well).

All of these things are absolutely wonderful and we should be happy and proud and celebrate this. However, there are some things that we should not be proud of. 

One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. One. In. Four. Sexual violence is pervasive in our society and something we must all work together to end. How do we do this? To end sexual violence, we need to end sexism. To end sexism, we need better representation in media, we need to end the objectification of women in everything (but especially the media), we need comprehensive sex education in schools that teaches children that no means no, and also teaches them that saying no is okay. We need equal pay for equal work. 

This International Women’s Day, we must also think about how to increase access to education for girls around the world. We need to end the stigma surrounding menstruation. We need to end child marriage. We must stop female genital mutilation. We must end gender-based violence and femicide. We need more women running for office at all levels of government.

You might think to yourself “well, I’m just one person. What can I do to really change the world and make it a better place for women?” My friend, I have some answers.

  1. Support female artists. Buy their music, their novels, their paintings, their sculptures, etc.
  2. Believe women when they tell you about their trauma. This is not difficult to do. All it takes is a “thank you for telling me. I believe you.” I have no words to describe how much this means to someone.
  3. Ask women questions. Learn from us. Ask women about their experiences and what you can do to make the world a safer place for us.
  4. Call out sexism when you see it. Even those little jokes can build into a patriarchal culture that ultimately harms women. 
  5. If you’re able, donate to organizations that help and support women. Some of my favourites will be listed at the bottom of this list, and if you want to donate, just click on the organization and the donate page will follow. 
  6. Volunteer for a woman’s election campaign. Don’t know any women running for office? Ask yourself why, then brainstorm some women you think be good for public office. I promise you, you know many. Then ask them to run and offer your support.
  7. Read articles and books about feminism written by women.
  8. As a follow-up to number seven, learn about prominent women in history. Then once you think you’ve learned about them all, find more and learn about them too. 
  9. Support women entrepreneurs. Buy their products or services. If you can’t afford them, like their posts on social media, invite your friends to like their business pages, share their posts. 
  10. Raise up women’s voices. If you’re on a board or in some other meeting with women, make sure that not only are you hearing what they have to say, but help everyone else in the room hear them (without speaking on their behalves, of course).

Last, but certainly not least, I leave you with this. To all my fellow activists, pay attention to who is in the room with you. More importantly, pay attention to who isn’t. Whose voices are missing from your activism? Figure out why, then fix it. Advocating for women’s rights is not about advocating for some women. It’s about all of us.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Some organizations you can donate to:

  1. The Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre.
  2. The St. John’s Status of Women Council.
  3. Planned Parenthood.
  4. Iris Kirby House.
  5. The Multicultural Women’s Organization.

-Courtney


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