I tend to get nervous around strangers, especially in large groups, but in January, I went to the Women’s March—the Los Angeles one—with a few friends. I’m glad I did, because it was one of the rare occasions where I felt safe and happy in a crowd. I loved spending the day surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who all care about women’s rights, and knowing that similar marches were happening around the country and the world.
Now, when I hear about legislation that would have a negative impact on women, I find it helpful to visualize those marches. Even if we are no longer moving through the city en masse, it’s reassuring to know so many people out there share my beliefs about everything from reproductive rights to pay equity. Remembering the passion and energy in the air at those marches inspires me to seek out ways to empower myself and other women. Want to help? Here are a few ways to get started.
1. Know what’s happening.
Reading the latest news about women’s rights being threatened isn’t exactly fun—in fact, it’s infuriating—but it’s important to be informed about what’s going on locally and nationally. Stay up to date so you know which issues are most crucial, and where your help can make the biggest difference.
2. Voice your concerns.
The thought of calling my elected officials to express my opinion about an issue totally stresses me out, but I’ve discovered that I can fake confidence for short periods of time. I take a deep breath, dial the person’s number, and say what I have to say. If you don’t think your local legislators have women’s best interests at heart, make it clear you’re planning to vote for someone else in the next election. Even better: Consider running for office yourself!
3. Listen to other women.
If you’re familiar with the term “intersectional feminism” you know it’s about how women have different experiences depending on their background, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Pay attention to other women when they talk about their struggles and their goals, because you can’t help someone without knowing what they need.
4. Celebrate women’s achievements.
If another woman impresses you, say so. If you think she’s doing a great job, tell her, and if possible, tell her boss, too. If a woman you work with has a great idea in a meeting, thank her for sharing it, and make sure nobody else tries to take credit for it.
5. Surround yourself with uplifting, encouraging women.
You deserve a whole squad of women who believe in you and have your back—because you’ll have theirs, too. If you don’t already have a group of close gal pals, keep an eye out for women you’d like to get to know better, and make an effort to get together on a regular basis. (Meanwhile, distance yourself from women who put you and your ideas down. You do NOT have time for that.)
6. Support organizations that help women and girls.
If you have a few hours every week or every month to work with a local nonprofit, do it. (I volunteer with WriteGirl, a creative writing mentoring organization, and I love everything about it.) Volunteering for a cause that means a lot to you is a great way to meet other women who care about the same issues.
7. Silence your inner critic.
I’m very critical of myself, but I’m doing my best to quiet that little voice in my head. In the meantime, I try to avoid criticizing myself out loud in front of other people. This is especially important around younger girls. If you complain about your weight or your looks, or body shame yourself in other ways, you’re setting an example for them to do the same things. Instead of worrying about your own appearance, turn your focus outward, and compliment others on qualities you admire.
8. Signal boost.
If you read a great book written by a woman, tell your friends to check it out. Want recommendations? Emma Watson started a feminist book club, and you can join it on Goodreads. The next time you see a great woman-centric movie, spread the word about its awesomeness. (Did you know IMDB’s new F-rating highlights movies that feature women in significant roles on screen and behind the camera?) You can boost women’s voices on a smaller level by sharing their thought-provoking articles and posts on social media. Get started right now by sharing this page!
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