Think about it: We should all be feminists. And not just because Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said so. To be a feminist means we recognize the intrinsic value of all people, regardless of sex, race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability. It means we believe that human beings of all identities deserve equal social, political, and economic opportunities. To put it simply, “feminist” is just another word for a person who believes in equality.
But believing in equality and practicing equality are, well… not equal. Feminism is not just an identity — it’s an everyday practice, a real, practical effort to support gender equality. Or, at least, it should be. So, in honor of International Women’s Day 2018 on March 8th, we put together a practical guide to help everyone embody feminism in both word and deed.
And what does it mean to support gender equality in practice? We’re glad you asked, because that can be complicated depending on who you are. Societal barriers, financial responsibilities, and political climate can all limit the opportunities available for certain communities to practice feminism safely. To those folks, we see you. And if changing your Facebook profile pic or sharing a funny meme for International Women’s Day is all you can manage right now, we support you, too.
For those feminists who can take on more to support gender equality, though, read on!
1Check your privilege.
Our individual experiences with oppression may have sparked our inner feminist flame, but chances are we benefit from some form of privilege, too. And recognizing and reflecting on our own privilege is a vital part of our work as everyday feminists. Because whether we are white, cisgender, or able-bodied, privilege of any kind can keep us blind to the lived experiences of people who are not like us.
And while most, if not all, forms of oppression intersect in some way (read: intersectionality), that does not mean our struggles are all the same. But by acknowledging our unique advantages — and admitting that not everyone enjoys the same ones we do — we can begin to dismantle the white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal systems that oppress us all.
2Read lots of books.
Most feminists can identify the exact moment they experienced their feminist awakening. And more often than not, an essential feminist text raised their consciousness. From bell hooks’s Feminism Is for Everybody to Angela Y. Davis’s Women, Race, and Class to Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider to Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, and countless more, critical writings on feminism open even the most woke eyes to new feminist perspectives.
And because feminism is always evolving, the practice of engaging in necessary feminist conversations through text never ends. So join a feminist book club — or start one! — and get reading.
3Learn to listen.
If you want to be woke, you need to open more than your eyes. You have to open your ears, too. And while listening sounds easy, for many, particularly people with privilege, the act of listening can prove a struggle. And for feminists especially, not listening is highly problematic.
Listening provides opportunities to learn about people we may not know, experiences we may not understand, and struggles we can’t even comprehend. To put it another way, without listening, there can be no justice (another tenet of feminism). And to deny ourselves the knowledge of diverse, powerful, and change-making perspectives is… well, unjust.
So whether it’s a one-on-one interaction, a group discussion, or a Q&A speaker situation, support historically marginalized voices — women, queer individuals, people of color, and others — and listen.
4Use your voice.
Ever notice how hard systems of oppression work to silence the people they abuse? Yeah, EFF THAT. If recent movements like #MeToo and the student-led March For Our Lives to end gun violence have taught us anything, it’s that speaking up can change the world. And white supremacist capitalist patriarchy knows it — and it terrifies them.
So if you want to make the system shake in its status quo-loving boots, use your voice to call out injustice on the daily. Because when we speak truth to power, we not only raise collective consciousness, we empower others to speak truth, too. And a chorus of voices is a lot harder to ignore than just one.
As Audre Lorde, a black lesbian feminist poet, once wrote, “Your silence will not protect you.” So tweet, create your own blog, or just practice self-advocating in your everyday life — and make your voice heard.
6Support feminist content creators.
We don’t know about you, but if we have to sit through another movie about how tough life is for the able-bodied, cisgender, straight, mediocre, white man, we might go crazy. Or if we have to watch another TV show. Or read another book. Or see another play. Or… STOP THE MADNESS!
If art is a reflection of culture at-large, then why do we — as women, queer people, and people of color — have to fight so damn hard to see ourselves in it? Let’s change all that by supporting feminist content creators who value representation and inclusive storytelling.
Filmmakers like Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, and Jordan Peele. TV showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Jill Soloway. And the woke creators behind podcasts like 2 Dope Queens and Call Your Girlfriend.
By consuming feminist creative content regularly, you not only feed your brain (and your soul), you also make it possible for feminist art makers to keep creating rad content, reach new audiences, and inspire dramatic cultural shifts.
Call your representatives and tell them the Trump administration’s rollbacks on reproductive rights are unacceptable. Attend Black Lives Matter rallies and demonstrations. Volunteer at your local rape crisis center. Become a member of an organization that’s fighting the good fight, such as the National Organization for Women. Donate to Planned Parenthood. Mentor young people in your community. March. Tweet support for a cause you care about.
For feminists, there are countless ways to get involved, make a difference, and take action. And even the smallest actions can add up to big change. So empower yourselves — and people in your community — to do what you can to support gender equality and make the world a better (and more feminist) place.