Last November, headlines were made. Whether you voted Republican or Democrat, or voted for a third party, a large portion of the American populace was shocked by election results. Donald Trump, a man known for his business acumen rather than his political prowess, was voted in as the next President of the United States.
Political preferences aside, one thing was made clear during Trump’s campaign efforts: he underestimates and disrespects women, regardless of age, race, or creed. His “locker room” remarks displayed a problem many women in the country face: poor treatment is regarded as a joke, and assault is characterized as harmless entertainment. Even if this particular form of sexism has never touched you personally, I can almost guarantee someone close to you has encountered its cruelty.
As the inauguration approaches, brush up on these simple, effective ways to make some noise and have your voice heard in a country continually devoted to silencing powerful female voices.
Know Your Rights
Knowledge is power. First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and your state and local laws. After all, how can you exercise your rights if you aren’t sure what they are? Although the adage is “ignorance is bliss,” this couldn’t be further from the truth; instead, ignorance is what keeps women under the thumb of a patriarchy determined to undermine the power of the female voice.
As you begin to gain a rudimentary understanding of the rights afforded to you via the United States government, exercise those rights. Vote in local, state, and national elections. Keep in contact with your representatives, and make your opinions, needs, and wants known, both in your simple circles (friends and family), and wider circles (local and state laws). This brings us to…
Know Your Representatives
During election season, most of us can agree that it is all too common to receive unwanted phone calls, urging people to take action in favor of a specific candidate. Why not use the same tactic? Familiarize yourself with your local representatives. Familiarize yourself with your state representatives, including senators and the office aides put in place to connect you and your government.
Politicians often seem “above” and out of reach; however, as a cursory understanding of our political process can attest, these men and women derive their power from the American people—from you. Call, email, and petition to have your needs and wants met—not only during election season, but also during the “off “season. There is never a wrong time to speak up.
Don’t Fear Being Branded a Nasty Woman
Own it. Embrace it. Some men (Trump included) would have you believe that being vocal is synonymous to being unpleasant or undesirable. But let me let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? Here it is: you do not exist to please men. Take a moment to breathe, if you need—I completely understand. By and large, women are raised to believe that they exist for the sole purpose of supporting and enabling men. But here is the truth, regardless of your social, political, economic, or religious background: you exist apart from men. You have value, apart from men.
Being labeled a “nasty woman,” by a man who thinks grabbing a woman by the crotch is a perfectly acceptable way to behave could even be seen as a compliment; you won’t sit back and let yourself be violated, spoken down to, or ignored. You stand apart, you stand tall, and you speak your mind.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Passionate about environmental issues? Fierce regarding animal rights? Determined to bring about lasting social change? Watch where you are putting your hard-earned money. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you refrain from paying taxes or similarly illegal behavior. Instead, I’m talking about the purchases you make on a daily basis. Where do you purchase your daily hygiene items? Are you furthering small businesses or fueling corporations? Are you supporting charities and causes you believe in?
Your money speaks louder than many of your actions. After all, money makes the world go ‘round, right? So instead of simply railing against aspects of your country you don’t like, donate money to causes working to instill change. Support local economies, through purchasing locally-grown foods, locally-made (and preferably plastic-free) hygiene products such as soap, and even frequenting a local coffeehouse rather than a big-name chain. Although there is certainly nothing wrong with the existence of corporations, many corporations pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into lobbying for the politicians who can provide them with the most beneficial tax situation. Do your best to avoid being a part of this problem, and support companies and organizations whose missions you believe in.
Work Toward Unity, Not Division
One of the most effective ways to silence and disband a people group is to breed division. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” One of the simplest and most effective ways women have been silenced is through the propagation of the idea that all women are in competition—usually, in competition for the attention of men, whether that is romantic attention, or attention designed to further your career.
Instead of treating the women in your life as enemies, consider seeing women as a whole as your closest allies. Instead of spreading gossip, indulging in lies, or aiding in character assassination (even if it is something as seemingly innocuous as discussing a coworker’s roiling personal life), offer support, encouragement, and strength for your fellow woman.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Although some will suggest you must become masculine in order to be taken seriously, ignore this: you are who you are, and you don’t have to change to become relevant. If you feel your best—your strongest—with short hair, androgynous clothing, and not a scrap of makeup, embrace it. If you feel your best in a full face of makeup, 50s-style dresses, and perfectly-coiffed hair, embrace that, too. Take time to center yourself, ground yourself, and familiarize yourself intimately with your convictions. The stronger you are on your own, and the more confident you are in your own abilities, the greater chance you have of supporting, strengthening, and helping others.
Armed with the “weapons,” of sorts, listed above, you are poised to not only speak, but to be heard. Tread carefully, and tread wisely; although it may on occasion seem to be better to scream your point of view, a calm and rational discussion will always prove more effective than a shouting match. Know your rights, know your abilities, and know your government. After all, your voice matters. Your needs matter. Your life matters. Believe it, and fight for it.