It’s nice to celebrate being a woman on International Women’s Day every year. For a few hours, at least, to let my hair down, dress up nice, and revel in the fact that I am one small part of the powerful chorus of women I see sharing stories, pictures and hashtags.
But it’s also an opportunity to remind myself of what needs to change – what I need to change – if we’re ever going to live in a world where there doesn’t have to be an International Women’s Day. These are three commitments I’m making this year, to help make the world a fairer and safer place to be a woman.
Say – This year, I’m challenging myself to not once introduce or describe a woman first by what she looks like.
When I first say that a woman is beautiful, gorgeous, a bombshell, even a brunette, I imply that what is most important about her, what defines her, is the way she looks. It is more important than anything else I could have said about her; her intelligence, her work ethic, her strength, her voice, none of it surpasses the importance of her appearance.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a compliment (maybe it’s even worse) and it doesn’t matter if what I really meant was ‘gorgeous on the inside’ – we all know that the society we live in isn’t taking that meaning unless it’s stated explicitly.
If I wouldn’t describe a man as handsome in the same situation (and I wouldn’t, would I, invite a man onto the stage to give a reading, or announce he’ll be sitting on a panel, and introduce him by calling him handsome – it would be unprofessional, possibly creepy, definitely reductive), then I can extend this courtesy to women, too.
This year, I’m going to find other ways to talk about women.
See – This year, I’m going to see diverse women in my feeds, on my bookshelves, on my screens.
This isn’t a challenge – these women are not hidden, waiting to be found. They have been ignored and silenced. This year, I will read them, see them, follow them, like/heart/up-vote them, share them and celebrate them.
This year, I will acknowledge the value of women who are not exactly like me.
Spend – This year, I will be mindful that how I spend my money affects women’s lives.
I will not buy clothing from companies that deliberately keep women deep in poverty, working in conditions that will kill them, all so that my outfit can cost less than my lunch. I will not talk about the bargains I bought, but the skills that went into creating the clothes that I love to wear, the hours of work that went into every cut and stitch and seam, and the true value that is worth.
This year, I will no longer be an accomplice in the exploitation of women.
(If you want to join me on this one, I’ve written about how to start thinking ethically when it comes to shopping here.)