Be the Support You Wish You Had

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Women’s Equality Day was August 26th.  Timehop reminded me of previous posts I’d made about the day, commemorating the progress made when women gained the right to vote (although, black women faced curtailing of said freedom for more than 40 years after).

This year, I made a point to celebrate the women around me, wishing them a “Happy Women’s Equality Day”, talking about women’s issues and the challenges faced within different cultures (as well as the work taking place to make things better), and making a focused effort to support women—because tearing down my fellow women only worsens the situation.

Various organizations I follow on social media recognized the day with posts, articles, pictures, and memes, but my newsfeeds were mostly devoid of personal posts supporting or acknowledging the day.  Instead, I saw many celebrating National Dog Day with pictures of their favorite pure bred pups and mutts (your newsfeeds could look different than mine).

My mind is struggling to comprehend the focus on dogs when, during that week, I’d read headlines about a Jewish sect mandating it is wrong for women to receive a college education, five girls dying from female genital mutilation, the lack of education for black women about the importance of breastfeeding their children, and Muslim women being forced to publically remove articles of clothing on beaches in France.

Where is our outrage at the unjust treatment of an entire gender because they don’t have a penis?  Where is the righteous indignation over the patriarchal superiority that leads to mandates about women driving, appropriate attire, career paths, home life, and basic human dignity?

I grew up believing that feminism was wrong, because in my mind, feminism meant “man hatred”.  It was not until I studied abroad that I was introduced to differing perspectives—that feminism was not synonymous with hating men.

I quickly noticed a change in my mindset: I did not judge certain things that previously would have shocked me (like a woman saying she doesn’t want to ever have children), my personal goals and desires in life started to evolve (I, who started planning her wedding when she was three years old, began questioning if I ever wanted to marry), and I wanted to stand up for and with other women as they navigated their challenges as women in a primarily male-dominant world.

Two years ago I visited the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC to see a series of photographs from eleven female National Geographic photographers.  One of the images and accompanying stories that still stands out in my mind was of a young teenager who was a child-bride, married to a man many years her senior, but who had managed to obtain a divorce.  My emotions were mixed as I viewed this girl who had experienced and overcome so much more than the average, American teenager.  I felt sorrow for the horrors to which she had been subjected, but, more than sorrow, I felt great joy that she stood there, victorious in her ability to leave a bad union (I won’t call it a marriage), and continue forward in her life.

In the United States, women face discrimination and prejudices; they are constantly critiqued for being too ambitious, not ambitious enough, wearing too much make up, not wearing enough, being too assertive, being too passive—the criticisms are never ending.

Supporting women’s equality takes many shapes.  It means supporting the woman who views relationship gender roles differently than you, because she is entitled to do what works for her.  It means understanding the impact of other social justice issues on the fight for women’s equality (such as the lack of education among black women in regards to breast feeding).  It’s starting conversations that discuss international women’s issues—like the United States being one of three countries to not mandate paid maternity leave.

Advocates are working hard, daily, to make change.  Books are written, organizations founded, and “on the ground” steps taken to be a voice for the voiceless.  However, without continuing to grow the awareness of this dire, world-wide need, how can we hope to continue growth?

If you scroll through my Instagram, you’ll see pictures of my cats.  I think they are adorable.  However, when so many people post about their pets and not about changing the world for women, it causes me to pause and ponder, what are our priorities and for how long will women allow themselves to be treated as second-rate human beings?

BE the support you want to receive!

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