6 Things You Can Do Right Now To Make Women’s Equality Day More Inclusive
It’s about celebrating every kind of woman.
August 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the day on which the 19th Amendment, which gave women across America the right to vote, was adopted to the U.S. Constitution. It’s known as Women’s Equality Day, and tends to be a day of celebration and empowerment — and frustration, as the fact that women remain pretty deeply unequal in America is brought to the forefront of conversation. But when it comes to pulling out your pussy hat and celebrating all womanhood on the weekend, there’s another agenda beyond simply hoping for better gender equality. And agenda that focuses on the inequalities faced by every kind of woman — not just white, straight, cisgender ones.
The fight for inclusivity within the women’s equality movement has a long history, far beyond the 19th Amendment itself. These days it manifests as intersectional feminism, in which feminists are called upon to recognize the many differing forms of discrimination and prejudice that mean that, for instance, Latinas across the United States face the worst wage gaps of any race (an average of 54 cents to every dollar earned by white men). To truly act for women’s equality and make the 26th a day of worthwhile celebration, you need to celebrate Women’s Equality Day in an inclusive way. Not sure how to do that? Here’s a guide.
Why does inclusivity matter so much? Because of how often it’s been absent from women’s fight for equality. Black American suffragettes were made to march at the back of suffrage parades. Native American women have been systematically erased from American history. When the 19th Amendment passed, Black women across the South were effectively prevented from exercising their constitutional right to vote for decades by Jim Crow laws, and were only given the opportunity once the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. Want to be inclusive? Know this history. To wave American flags for the efforts of the suffragettes without also celebrating the efforts of the National Association of Colored Women, for instance, is to miss out on a huge chunk of the story, one that’s been written out for an extremely long time.
Transgender women are often excluded from discussions of mainstream gender equality. And they desperately need the sisterhood, because they face serious disadvantages and physical threats. Since January 1, 21 transgender women in the U.S. have been murdered and GLAAD records levels of discrimination, homelessness, health issues, harassment and attempted suicide among transgender women that are far higher than those of the general population. Want to help? Join the fight to help them out. Take action with one of the campaigns run by the National Center for Transgender Equality, or simply donate to their efforts. Spread the word about initiatives that help trans women, like Joan’s House, an upcoming shelter for trans people who are homeless or coming out of prison, or the Sylvia Rivera Legal Project, which provides legal help around gender identity and expression.
The voices of women of color have been systematically erased and forcibly ejected from discussions about women’s equality for an extremely long time. To celebrate Women’s Equality Day inclusively, don’t speak for them: uplift their own work and listen when they speak. Buy their work: The wildly popular The Hate U Give, by young Black author Angie Thomas has everybody talking about it. Listen to podcasts, pay for their art, invite them to speak and contribute to projects, support their communities (the Audre Lord Project, for example, is a community center for LGBTQ women of color in NYC). If you’re a white woman, maybe sit down and be quiet for a bit, and learn from your sisters who don’t have the privileges you do.
What’s the true state of gender equality across all stages? You might be surprised. To know some of the truth, go to the numbers. Women in 2015, for instance, earned an average of 81.6 cents to the dollar of men in America; specifically, however, the U.S. census found that Black, Native American, and Hispanic women received much less compared to white men, and less even when compared against men in their own races. Studies on the earnings of transgender women are small, but one in 2006 found that they risk losing an average of 12 percent of their earnings when they transition. This is only one small lens through which you can obtain the lay of the land: go digging for data on anything from house ownership to domestic violence to see the true picture of equality in America through the eyes of as many women as possible.
"There are striking similarities between feminist women’s rights and disability rights struggles, and each of these can provide an insight into the other," argues Agness Chindimba, founder of the Zimbabwe Deaf Media Trust, in "The Place Of Women With Disabilities In Feminist Movements." "Both feminist and disability movements are about challenging the status quo where power is distributed unequally, and advocating for social justice." However,women with disabilities have often felt left behind by the pursuit of women’s equality: The Women’s March was criticized for not including disability rights in its platform, and women with disabilities are far more likely to live in poverty than men (31 percent of women with disabilities versus 26 percent of men with disabilities, according to data from 2016). This Women’s Equality Day, make your celebrations accessible and disabled-friendly, examine your own ableist attitudes, and recognize that women with disabilities are women too.
If you have a bit of spare cash on the 26th, it’s worth giving it to organizations that have alway strived for inclusivity and work for every woman worldwide, regardless of age, race, class, sexuality or any other factor. Planned Parenthood in the U.S. is a good start, but if you feel like broadening your remit, try the National Organization for Women, the Global Fund for Women, the Association for Women’s Rights In Development, the International Alliance of Women, or search for other feminist organizations in your area that welcome donations and volunteers.
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