2014: The Women’s Rights Challenge

India’s day of “One Billion Rising.” Image from rawstory.com.

There are so many “Women in 2013” lists floating around the web right now, it seems silly to do a recap. Last year women around the world dealt with explosions of backsliding, shaming, and marginalizing discourses that served to maintain systems of inequality and injustice.

That being said, not everything is bad news.

Teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, victim of the Taliban, speaks out. Image from ibtimes.com via Reuters.
Teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, victim of the Taliban, speaks out. Image from ibtimes.com via Reuters.
  • Women are using all kinds of creative methods to explore and express the politics of gender and identity representation.
  • A 16-year-old gunshot survivor brought the YouTube world to its knees.
  • Things may still be awful in many places, but there are always the small victories that indicate that progress may be happening.
  • Even gaps between women in the same nation – gaps based on race, or sexuality, or level of ability – stand a chance of closing within our lifetimes. In other words, when we look for the small victories, we can paint a more optimistic picture than the headlines do.

However, I want to challenge all of you to grow beyond this. As much as I love the tiny signs of progress, I’m hungry for something bigger. I want major victories – the kind that give us the right to vote, to choose our own partners, to walk down the streets free from harassment. In 12 months I want to look back on a year that absolutely trounced inequality.

Realistically, what could this look like? Some ideas:

  • Proactively declare your support for equal rights. Proactively condemn the power dynamics that keep all women marginalized, and particularly condemn the dynamics that marginalize some women more than others.
  • Participate in rallies, marches, letter-writing campaigns, blog-a-thons, and other movements to express support for positive social change.
  • Continue to be an active bystander when you witness an act of gender-based violence, especially verbal violence. Intervene.
  • Practice being an ally as much as being an advocate.
  • Be aware of the intersectionality of your identity; what may be culturally easy for you may be much harder for someone else.
  • Critically inspect gender norms and boundaries in your culture of origin as much as you do when traveling.
  • Be vocal! One voice might not change the world alone, but many voices together can and will.

So here it stands. We rest on our laurels no longer; in 2014 we demand equality on a level heretofore unseen. Between small acts of activism and awareness, and larger demonstrations of our expectation that our basic human rights be respected, how can change not happen?

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