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.
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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.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.