March is Women’s History Month, when we look back and celebrate the rebel girls, the badass bitches and the ordinary women doing extraordinary things who got us to where we are today.
It’s a celebration of how far we have come and a memorial of what it took to get here. However, we must look forward as well as back. We are not nearly there yet.
I’m not going to write about all the injustices women still face; it would be exhausting for me and no easy read for you. Instead, here are some tips on how you can have a positive impact on the history of women, today!
Look beyond your bubble
Whatever your gender and background, the human experience is so vast and various that we all have things we are ignorant of. Remember that just because you have never seen or experienced something, doesn’t mean that other people haven’t.
Often privilege protects you from certain experiences, so listen and believe.
Do the research
Once you have realised there is much you don’t know, reduce that muchness! It’s so easy to find feminist literature, podcasts, and research papers. Use a variety of sources to avoid building yourself a new bubble of ‘white feminism’. Get uncomfortable.
Be aware of intersectionality
In short, people can be more than one thing! Discriminations can be multiplicative, can interfere and interact. It is vital that you’re aware that each individual has unique experiences and needs and that you aim to be as inclusive as possible.
Everyone has a different level of privilege. You can choose how to use it, how to share it. Stand up for people, call out your friends if they behave badly, make the spaces you occupy more inclusive, if you have the privilege to be able to do so safely.
Know when to shout out and when to shut up
This is a big one! A voice is a powerful thing. It is better to give a safe platform to less privileged groups than it is for a privileged voice to speak for them, or worse, over them!
However, that doesn’t mean the more privileged amongst us shouldn’t spread awareness of issues, be vocal in their support of women and actively call out misogyny.
She is not your mother/therapist/fix/teacher/secretary etc
Think about how you treat the women in your life. Men in particular, do you see them in terms of who they are or just what they can do for you? Do you expect them to pick up after you or spend more time supporting you than you do them? Catch your biases and get out of those bad habits.
Accept mistakes and grow
We all make mistakes. What matters is that we accept responsibility for them and do what we can to avoid repeating them. We all have unconscious biases, often even against groups we consider ourselves part of!
Take some unconscious bias tests (try Havard Project Implicit) and get into the habit of recognising and addressing when your biases come into play.
Time is money
Get practical and give some time or money to a cause helping women. Fundraise for Women’s Aid, volunteer in a charity shop etc. Also think about how you spend your money. Look for Fairtrade products and buy as ethically as your budget allows.
Did you know that the motto of Royal Holloway, ‘Esse quam videre,’ means, ‘To be, rather than to seem’?
In this sentiment, I hope we can foster integrity in ourselves, our university and in our wider society, standing up for what is right, even when it’s difficult, awkward or without personal reward.
I hope you enjoyed this article and wish all of you the very best Women’s History Month. Go celebrate your foremothers and smash some patriarchy!
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