Although sustainability is a cause I care deeply about and was the focus of my last blog post, there’s another cause I support that falls into the realm of sustainability and ethics. Just as I care about how we treat the environment, I care about how we treat one another. With March officially designated as Women’s History Month, you’ve no doubt noticed many people wearing red or knitted and crocheted pink hats to show solidarity for the equal treatment of women. While I agree that it’s incredibly important to empower women all over the world, not just in developing nations, it’s also important to realize that we cannot have equality for women without considering men too. Men and women are both placed in roles and feel pressure to fit specific stereotypes. Even though we are currently encouraging and inspiring people to reach beyond their gender roles, there are still some areas where we are making our way through the complicated labyrinth of gender and society. How can we break the mold of gender expectations? Here are few ideas and steps I’m going to start taking to show how I support gender equality:
- He for She. Need I say more? If you aren’t familiar with this organization, watch Emma Watson’s speech introducing the world to the idea that if we are going to empower women, we also need to empower men. Women are often stereotyped as the care givers, but men are also restricted by the stereotype that they have to be the sole providers of the family. They experience pressures as women do, and lack a sense of pride if they are unable to be the main breadwinners for their families. What He for She does is examine how we can break these stereotypes down and learn to let people be people.
- Remember that someone is not male or female, but a person. Sounds like a simple task, but it is not an easy one to accomplish. We’ve established roles accepted by society for men and women to adopt and we look down on those who don’t follow these perceptions. Instead of defining someone by their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other descriptor, it’s time to acknowledge people for who they are and what they do, not what they are. Instead of using the words “feminine” and “masculine,” what if we used “sophisticated,” “polished,” or “powerful”? What if we saw adjectives as words that could be used interchangeably for men and women instead of attributing them to one gender or the other? Respecting and accepting our differences is one step forward, but always using them to define someone puts up barriers that stop you from getting to know the real person behind the definition.
- Use multimedia. During a recent discussion about women in Hollywood, I asked my classmates how we can support gender equality in filmmaking. Not an easy task, but my classmates brought up a test I had never heard of, the Bechdel test. This test requires three elements: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. This video explains how the process works:
What’s the point of all of this? To support films that see women as individuals who talk about more subjects than men and that women have meaningful insights to share if the world will listen. Thanks to Stuff Mom Never Told You I was also fascinated to learn that Hollywood actually started with female directors who weren’t afraid to discuss risky topics like abortion and nudity. And, while you’re at it, I suggest adding Stuff You Missed in History Class to your podcasts and check out the Representation Project. Why? Because they tell stories of people we often overlook or don’t think about, and you will be blown away by what they have to say.
- Be a workplace ally for my co-workers. This means all co-workers and bosses, and as I’ve learned, we are all guilty of bashing one another and our bosses. Unfortunately, thinking back in my work history it seems women are the worst offenders of bashing other women. Men are guilty too, but why is that women can be hardest on each other when we are frustrated by the glass ceiling? Well ladies, it is time to call it quits, and Lean In has some great tips to get you started. When it comes to both men and women supporting equality in the workplace, we also have to stop categorizing men and women as possessing certain qualities, and we need to change some policies that benefit both of us. Just ask Anne Hathaway:
Yes, there is much more than equal and paid maternity and paternity leave, but by allowing men to be caretakers just as much as women breaks the preconceived idea that women are the only ones who want to take care of their families and will be looked down at work for wanting to do so. I don’t have children and don’t know if I ever will, but do think my co-workers should have time to spend with their newborns? Yes. Would I ever want a co-worker to think I will take their work if they’re on maternity/paternity leave or that they are less valuable to the company for choosing to start a family? No. Would I look down on someone who chose to never have a family or think their time is less valuable because they are single? No. Everyone has something to give to an organization, so why not support what they bring to the table?
- Support companies who believe in gender equality. You may not realize it, but there are many organizations who emphasize the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Tortoise and Lady Grey has some wonderful fashion suggestions, but I am sure there are many out there. As we work towards changing policies, attitudes, and ideas, why not show some support for change through our spending habits?
I’m inspired to learn about more steps I can take to make the world one that operates less on stereotypes and fosters tolerance, acceptance, and understanding. I commend my fellow women and men who continue to show solidarity for gender equality by wearing red and marching, and I applaud those who are making changes and share the voices of those who are overlooked. Protesting for a cause or an idea is only the beginning, incorporating and implementing changes to behavior, thinking, and policy is the long road ahead of us. As we move forward, I leave you with a few words from Gloria Steinem: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons . . . but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” It takes all of us to make a difference.
How do you think we can achieve gender equality? What will you do to show support?