It’s getting close to the end of Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day just happened a little less than two weeks ago on March 8th. Women’s History Month has been celebrated since the 1970s in some schools and has been recognized in some form by the president every year since 1981. International Women’s Day has been celebrated much longer, starting in multiple countries in the 1910s and celebrated worldwide on March 8th since 1913. Both focus on celebrating the history, accomplishments, and efforts of women, as well as their continued fight for equality in the United States and around the world.
In the last few weeks of reflecting on these celebrations, I’ve been thinking about the International Women’s Day theme, Choose to Challenge, and all the different ways a person can challenge gender inequality. Inequality and stereotypes based on gender can be present in everything from wage gaps to the toys we let children play with, and challenging it is something people of all genders can do and benefit from. It also doesn’t have to mean huge life changes, but can be a variety of small choices.
Because gender inequality and stereotypes are prevalent in so much of our society, it is easy to find small areas where you can challenge it. Maybe that’s in your own home, where you let your children play with dolls or monster trucks, or enjoy dance or STEM projects, regardless of their gender. Maybe you rotate their chores regularly, so you aren’t putting only the stereotypical women’s work like laundry on your daughter’s shoulders and men’s work like taking out the trash on your son’s. (Who even decided laundry was for women and taking the trash out was for men, anyway?) Maybe you read books to your children that show women as protagonists or in positions of power. Maybe you model gender equality in your home by having all the adults help with all chores like shopping, dishes, housework, budgeting, yardwork, and more. There are thousands of ways, big and small, to create a gender-inclusive and equal environment in your home and to pass on to your kids.
But if you don’t have kids, or don’t have others in your household, there are still plenty of other ways to challenge gender inequality. Maybe it’s talking to your friend or family member about why the sexist joke they made was inappropriate. Maybe you can point out when a male coworker interrupted or spoke over a female coworker, and encourage him to wait until she was finished speaking. Maybe you start a book club and suggest books with feminist themes. Or maybe you can advocate for paid maternal and paternal leave in your workplace, so people that give birth can have adequate time to heal and rest and their partners have time to share in caregiving responsibilities.
A great part about fighting for gender equality is that you don’t have to be a woman to make these changes and challenge the status quo. All people can talk to their loved ones about gender stereotypes, call out sexism when they see it, and advocate for an end to gender inequality. In some cases, it might even be easier for men to speak up for women’s rights because it can come with less risk and, let’s face it, some people are more likely to hear criticism or suggestions from men. For example, women speaking up for pay raises or against harassment in their workplace might mean putting their jobs at risk, but a man likely would not face the same backlash when standing up for his colleagues. Those that aren’t at risk can speak up or amplify the voices of those that are marginalized to give them more support.
Everyone has the potential to create change and make the world a little bit more equal. Fighting for women’s equality, and equality for all genders, isn’t just women’s work, it’s everyone’s responsibility.
If you Choose to Challenge gender inequality or want to read more about women’s rights and gender equality for all, check out this list!