By Eliza David
Being a woman is a LOT. We face a litany of challenges, wearing many hats as we navigate through the jungle of sexism. But alas – the drama doesn’t end there. Many of us are also subject to racism, homophobia, lower pay, ageism, mommy guilt, or a wicked combo of any and all. It’s tough stuff, which is why the last thing we need as women is to turn on each other.
In a New York Times op-ed piece, actress/alleged feminist Mayim Bialik pointed to beholding beauty standards and lack of modesty as invitations to sexual assault (and then subsequently offered a quasi-apology for the absentminded piece). Although her cringe-worthy words were 2,736 types of wrong, it created a dialogue among women regarding how we can be our own worst enemies. The knee-jerk reaction to uphold the low standards of misogyny has been internalized. I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past – we all have, I’m willing to wager.
What’s good is that it’s never too late to educate yourself on how to be a better ally for your fellow women and, most importantly, for yourself:
Listen Without Prejudice – Our own experiences are what we know best. It gives us comfort to hear like-minded struggles, an avenue to empathy that’s easiest to travel. However, if you’re only hearing stories similar to yours, it’s time to expand your circle of dialogue. True feminism is the acknowledgment of stories unlike your own. It means realizing that many women are juggling race, sexuality, and gender along with the conversation of feminism. Give women who don’t look like you the space they deserve to speak.
Reading is Fundamental – A part of reeducation includes picking up a book on occasion. While mainstream activists such as Camille Paglia and Gloria Steinem have long been the go-to writers for feminist prose, instead try picking up Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens or Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis for a more well-rounded intersectional perspective. Buzzfeed’s Tracy Clayton offers an extensive book list with additional titles to help silence your lingering sexist.
Gather Your Friends – The best way to be an ally is also one of the hardest. Holding men accountable is something we all can do, but it can be difficult to call out your women friends when they aren’t being inclusive. In order to align, we must hold ourselves and those around us accountable. Be diligent about calling out the not-so-feminist feminists in your circle.
Invest in Women – I love Kelis. She is innovative, bold, and daring. She also sang one of my favorite lyrics of all time: ‘I could teach you, but I’d have to charge.’ One rebuttal I’ve heard from women in denial about their inner misogynist is the plea for explanation. Understand that women of color, queer women, and/or transwomen are not obligated to teach you about intersectionality. They aren’t required to tell you their stories. But you are in luck! You’ll find that many women (especially on Twitter) are great resources for a fee. Follow twitter tags such as #AmplifyWomen and #BoostWOC to invest in women with a multitude of resources and gifts.
All of these suggestions require one ask of us – to listen fully to each other. Misogyny is comforting for some of us, I know. It is also toxic and dangerous. Open your ears and expand your mind.
Eliza is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.