On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women, girls, and their rights. I wrote about how inspired I was by women last year—from celebrities and modern role models to historical figures and the women in my own life. I was encouraged by just how many people, both women and men, were celebrating the “strong, smart, complicated, kind, creative, and innovative women” in the world too. We are starting to really take note of how powerful and important women and women’s rights are to the success of our planet, and today, I am equally as inspired and encouraged.
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” – Michelle Obama
Feminism, both the word itself and the actual movement, get a bad rep most of the time. As a young adult, I was afraid to identify as a feminist at first. The people in my life, as far as I knew, considered it a radical idea and just too over the top. Women deserved equal rights, sure. But feminism? Well, that was too extreme!
Feminism doesn’t only benefit women though. The very definition calls for the “advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” Eventually, I realized that my beliefs perfectly aligned with the idea of feminism. I thought women deserved to be equal to men. I realized that masculinity could be problematic, especially for young boys. I wanted to see girls and women do anything they wanted. I hoped everyone could find themselves on a level playing field. Whether I wanted to label it or not, I was a feminist. I am a feminist. Now, I understand that it isn’t a bad word. It isn’t something to be afraid of.
Women can be quiet or loud, reserved or promiscuous, laid-back or bossy. Men can be gentle or strong, dependent or self-sufficient, emotional or apathetic. They can be any and everything in between. Feminism allows for that. There is no need for a hard-drawn line between contrasting traits. Feminism also allows for so much more—equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment.
“We’ve been marching for centuries. We will not rest until we have a world that is just, equal, safe, and free.” – Marai Larasi
While many people joke that there should be an International Men’s Day too, their intentions often don’t come from a good place. International Men’s Day is actually recognized in thirteen states in America and various other countries around the world. The observance isn’t meant for men to boast their supposed superiority over women or to boost their often fragile egos though (#sorrynotsorry). When International Men’s Day actually “focuses on men’s and boy’s health, improves gender relations, promotes gender equality, and highlights positive male role models,” the holiday is productive and realistic, and actually quite similar to International Women’s Day. I think what a lot of people either forget or don’t realize, is that we can talk about equality for women and it doesn’t mean we “hate” men or we want to dismiss the problems they have too.
The past few years have seen women stand up and march. It’s not something new, but social media has made it easier to see, to be seen, and to be part of. The #MeToo movement, the Time’s Up campaign, and the Women’s March on Washington (and subsequently, the Women’s March on the basically the whole world) have all played a part in helping women take back their strength and their voices. Women are done keeping quiet about sexual assault. Women want to create safer and more equal workplaces. Women are advocating for human rights. And we don’t stand alone. There are plenty of men standing by our sides who are ready to fight with us, not against us.
One of my favorite thing about women is that we band together, no matter what. I see it every day with my friends and family. I see it on TV and in print, online and in person, in politics and music. It is everywhere in the world. In NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and British primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall. In Pakistani education activist and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Liberian peace activist Lehmah Gbowee. Polish and French physicist and chemist Marie Curie. Lawyer, writer, and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Australian wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin. Teen activist and gun control advocate Emma Gonzalez.
These women, and so many others, stand for the things they believe in, but they also stand with each other.
“Everybody laughed at me and told me I was just a girl. Except my mother. She said that if I really wanted something, I had to work hard, take advantage of opportunities, and never give up. I never forgot her advice.” – Dr. Jane Goodall
How do we help things change for women? We educate girls and women. We teach them what we know. We help them grow and learn and stand on their own. We hire women. We get women to the polls. We vote for women. We listen to women. We let women have control of their own bodies. We fight for them, alongside them. We create a world that gives women and men equal opportunities and allows them to step outside traditional feminine and masculine norms.