March is Women's History Month, a time to reflect on the achievements of women and to seek new ways to empower them.
In the past year and a half, the Women's March and the #MeToo movement have begun to reshape national conversations about gender equality. But sometimes in our haste to advocate for women's rights, we forget that womanhood can come in many forms.
This month grants the perfect opportunity for anyone to start to acknowledge the diversity of women and champion for the equality of all: including women of color, trans women and women from around the world. Here are 15 woke ways to support, educate and celebrate all women for Women's History Month.
1. Make your smartphone even smarter by downloading this female-forward app.
Change starts with small steps, so why not begin with your phone? Download Women & Girls, an app that uses data from 201 countries to track gender equality around the world. Or keep tabs on sexual harassment by using Hollaback! an app that allows you to record and share stories about sexual harassment in your neighborhood.
Photo Courtesy of ThoughtCo
2. Become pen pals with a woman from across the globe.
Learn about women's experiences in other countries by finding an international pen pal. You can use the Women & Girls app to select a country that lacks women's equality. Then, use Postcrossing, a free website that connects you with people from 213 countries, to find your female pen pal.
3. Divest from companies that don't support equal rights and support ones that do.
Sadly, some of the brands we love support discrimination and inequality. Thankfully, there are tons of great women-owned brands you can put your dollar to that are supportive and inclusive. Check out Adorned by Chi, a clothing and accessory line full of cheeky tees and accessories that promote black girl magic and kawaii looks. Or SheNative, a handbag line started by Devon Fiddler, a First Nations woman looking to destigmatize the perception of indigenous women.
4. Dive into feminist theory.
Women make up 49.5 percent of the global population, and that's just those who are biologically born female. Expand your mind and learn about the many definitions of womanhood. Discover Kimberle Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and pioneer of intersectional feminism. Or read a book by Bell Hooks, a gender studies scholar who deconstructs what it truly means to be a woman of color under the white, male patriarchy.
5. Host a Women's History Month party.
What better way to celebrate Women's History Month than to recognize the women in your life? Ask guests to bring menstrual products, diapers, and makeup as a point of entry. At the end of the party, you can collect the products and donate to your local women's shelter. Here are some ideas on what you can ask your guests to bring.
During the party, your guests and you can color these awesome print-outs of badass women. Or opt for a movie marathon featuring powerful female characters. Uninspired? Check out this extensive list of movies with powerful female leads.
6. Treat yourself with this holistic, Latina-owned beauty line.
Brujita Skincare is a line based in Los Angeles that uses fairly-sourced, mineral-rich clays and powders from Mexico. The founder, Leah Guerrero, travels regularly in Mexico to find holistic ingredients sourced from local market vendors. The line specializes in masks, oils and creams.
7. Sign up for that boxing class you've been putting off.
U.N. Women estimates that 35 percent of women have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Sign up for a boxing class at your local gym or better yet, a crash course women's self-defense.
8. Donate a picture book about a strong woman or girl.
Give the gift of women's empowerment to a girl in need. Check out this list of 45 must-have books for girls. If you don't have a Little Free Library where you live, try Project Night Night, a program that assembles “night packages" to homeless children 12 and under, or United Through Reading, a program that helps children of active military personnel bond with their deployed parents through reading.
9. Flood your feed with feminist Instagrams.
Who doesn't love a good RBG meme? For starters, check out @femalecollective, an Instagram run by Candace Reels, an intersectional feminist from Los Angeles who went from running the account to a full-fledged blog and online clothing store. Or @ladiesgetpaid, a women's network focused on sharing resources and job opportunities across the web.
10. Indulge in a TED Talk on feminism.
Choose from 10 talks that discuss different aspects of women empowerment. Examples include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech that inspired her book, “We Should All Be Feminists," and Malala Yousafzai's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai's speech on his daughter. These talks will open your mind and inspire the ways in which you think about female empowerment.
11. Call your local representatives to support and further promote equality for all.
Keep up with issues that affect your community. Whether it's speaking out about women's reproductive rights, or protections for trans women, call up your local representative and make your voice heard. Check out USA.gov to get in touch with your local, state and federal officials.
12. Register to vote.
It's important to remember the power we have when we cast a ballot. To learn more about how to register, click here.
13. Learn about the women you weren't taught about in history class.
For many, just like Black History Month, the scope of Women's History Month is narrow or non-existent in school. Use this time to learn about the hundreds of women around the world who have paved the way for future generations. Whether its women from the past like Queen Hatshepsut, the first queen of Egypt, or Miss Major, a pioneer trans civil rights activist who was active in the Stonewall Riots, try to learn about a woman each day for the month of March.
14. Find out about your own women's history.
It's important to remember the women in our own personal histories, too. Looking at old photo albums with family members can bring to light the past women in your family's narrative. But if you want to dive deeper, go online. Check out FamilySearch.org, a free ancestry site that has millions of records from around the world. The site also has tutorials and tips on how to look through archives.
15. Continue to celebrate women beyond history month.
Empowering women and fighting for gender equality should go beyond 31 days. Continue to advocate for the rights of all women by practicing these methods above, or better yet come up with some methods of your own.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.