Women’s History Month is celebrated for 31 days in the spring of each year, Such a time ought to be more than just a month we spend listening and learning. In fact, those words can lose so much of their essence when they aren’t followed up with changed behavior. The things we observe in Women’s History Month should propel us into a lifetime of activism, awareness, and treating all women with dignity and respect.
We can talk ad nauseam about all the “should have” and “could have” moments that exist within our realm of responsibility or we can do. For many folks, knowing where to begin is half the battle. It’s one thing, and quite a necessary thing, to care about the issues facing women in our society today. It’s a whole separate issue to know where to begin. Here are a few things that can help guide you into a more actionable future when it comes to women’s rights!
First, let’s talk about the education component. It’s hard to know where to begin when advocating for women, especially if you aren’t fully aware of what the landscape is like for women. There’s no better place to begin than Mikki Kendall’s book: Hood Feminism. Kendall’s book of essays takes the time and care required to address some fundamental aspects of feminism; elements that were completely left out of the first-wave movements of feminism: the rights and needs of women of color. Especially Black women. It’s no secret that the feminist movement has always centered the voices and needs of white women over every other woman; negligence that actually costs lives. Honestly, the importance placed on one type of woman over the whole of women should be more upsetting to us than it is. Becoming an advocate for women, during Women’s History Month or any other time of year, is incomplete without recognizing the women that have been left out of mainstream feminism. In your efforts to educate yourself about the disadvantages women face every single day, be sure that you’re learning from a diverse set of voices.
While it’s true that all women are impacted by misogyny and patriarchy, women of color and transgender women constantly reside at a place of higher risk of discrimination. In your journey of self-education, don’t just stop with Hood Feminism. Keep researching. Most importantly, if you want to learn about how gender inequality impacts women, consume media created by women. If you want to learn about how racism plays a role in gender discrimination against Black women, Indigenous women, Transgender women, and Latinx women – consume media created by them. Don’t trust other individuals to tell the stories they haven’t lived.
Education is a key component to being involved in any social issue, and it is a component that ought to continue throughout your life. However, activism can’t be passive, and all the knowledge you’ve acquired about women’s history won’t do much good in the world if it doesn’t spur you into an actionable life! Activism is an opportunity for you to fall in line behind the capable women who are leading the charge! A simple Google search can land you with plenty of results to cull through until you find a resource that works with what you’re able to do. Whether that be nonprofits led by women that you want to volunteer with, or activism groups you want to donate to – there are a host of ways to become involved!
In Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall addresses the ways in which Black women create a village to support the needs of those in their neighborhoods. Food deserts exist all over the United States. Lack of tangible resources are doing such harm to people all over the country, and now more than ever it seems like we’re the only ones who are going to take care of each other. Find local organizations that need your time and money. Ask how you can help, and then listen. Activism doesn’t serve anyone if you only take part in the elements that make you feel good, and stop with the ones that make you uncomfy.
Women’s History Impacts Us All
Finally, you may have noticed how the topic shifted a bit from women’s inequality to something that impacts everyone. The reason behind that is because a lack of supporting women does impact everyone. When women in our communities are underpaid, unemployed, exploited, or worse, that leaves entire groups of people without a structure they rely on to survive. When single mothers don’t have access to the healthcare they need, get diagnosed with cancer, and die without adequate options or treatment, who’s left to take care of their children? Entire family structures often rely on their mothers and grandmothers and older sisters (and any other woman in their lives) to hold the pieces together. When those women are automatically at a disadvantage, simply for not being men, the cyclical effects of those realities can be devastating. They are devastating.
Women’s History Month is about more than cute graphics on Instagram and posting photos of the six women you love most in life. While those things have a place, they can’t be a stand-in for actually standing up for women and their rights. When you see a woman being mistreated, speak up for her. When you learn of a grassroots organization supporting neighborhoods suffering hunger and lack of resources, find out what they need and help where you can! When someone in your family misgenders your transgender cousin, call them out; make sure you’re using the right name and pronouns for your cousin. Continue your education, continue purchasing art and books, and other items created by women. Continue diversifying the media you consume.
You can google Etsy shops owned by women, and a whole list of shops with an incredible variety are before your eyes. Beyond your own activism, education, and purchasing – refer these resources to your friends! Share your educational resources, get others involved in supporting the organizations you’ve found. Remember, the way we treat women matters so much because women matter so much.
Comment below to tell us what you’re doing this Women’s History Month!