The beginning of each calendar year is always an exciting time to be alive, because after Black History Month in February, we also honor all the past, present, and future women of the world during Women's History Month in March (or as many of us like to call it, Women's Herstory Month). Since this month is all about celebrating women in all ways possible, it's worth thinking about all the little ways to can support the women and girls in your life. Whether you're a dude, a woman yourself, a little bit of both, or none of the above, there's nothing more wonderful than seeing the ones you love successful and happy.
Women's History Month, which kicks off on March 1 and lasts the entire month, was started in 1981 when Congress both requested and authorized the President to designate a week in March as Women's History Week. (Yes, week. Apparently we weren't always worth an entire month.) The week of March 7, 1982 marked the first Women's History Week, but since the 1990s, the celebration has been expanded to last the entire month. Some important people tweeting about and participating in Women's History Month include Hillary Clinton, who tweeted about Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space; Janet Mock who recently attended a panel discussing the WHM hashtag, as well as the #GirlsLikeUs hashtag which celebrates trans women and their work and lives; and many, many more.
But you don't have to be a big politician, activist, celebrity, or organization to participate in WHM and make a difference. Check out these 10 little ways you can support the women in your lives
1. Leave Their Wardrobe Choices Alone
Or even celebrate them, if they're cool with it. Women are consistently slut-shamed, criticized, and judged for the clothes they put on their bodies, significantly more so than men. Trans women and women of color often experience this even more because their bodies are so often "othered" in the first place. Whether it's a celebrity on the red carpet or teenager trying to make her way to class, most women have to deal with other (often unwarranted) opinions on how they're dressed, and for people around a woman to understand that it's inappropriate to put a woman down for what she's wearing could make a huge difference in her day.
2. Realize That "For A Girl" Is Not A Compliment
Examples include: "You're good at sports for a girl," "you code well for a girl," "you're beautiful for a black girl," or "you're smart for a blonde girl." Gender stereotypes are so early 2000s, and when a woman does something well, she's doing it well period, not within her gender, sex, or any other group she identifies with.
3. Avoid Telling Them What To Do To Make Themselves Prettier (Unless They Ask For The Advice)
Women's face don't exist for anyone else's amusement, so telling women or girls to smile when they're not isn't supportive; it's body-policing. The same goes for criticisms of their wardrobe choices, their makeup, or anything else about their appearances. If someone explicitly asks for your opinion about any of these things, of course you can respond; however, maintaining positivity around these subjects is usually the best way to be supportive. If you have a different opinion of beauty or style than another person does, you can always apply that to yourself instead.
4. Encourage Girl-on-Girl Love And Friendship Instead of Perpetuating Girl-on-Girl Hate
This one basically means "support women supporting one another." Women are too often pitted against one another, or even allow for divisive issues on feminism or womanhood to cause a rift themselves — but we don't have to allow this to happen. In fact, we're stronger when we don't cut each other down, even when we don't see eye to eye — something which I've experienced first hand: Once, when complaining about how exclusive towards women of color white feminism can be, my friend, a white woman, asked me why I was looking to divide women up based on skin color and brand of feminism. I considered my stance, and while I stood (and stand) by what I was saying, I realized that it was important that I discussed the idea of white feminism without letting our differences create a rift between our friendship. The point is that people can hold different viewpoints while still being supportive of each other.
5. Remember That "Act Like A Lady" Really Means "Act However Makes You Feel Happiest"
Because a lady can act any way she wants, thank you very much!
6. Brag About Your Friends
This is my favorite way to support and encourage all my yas queens: By bragging about them. All the time. To anyone who will stop and listen, which includes both strangers and other friends in the squad. Sometimes, it's just a huge ego boost when I realize how cool my friends are.
7. Be An Advocate For Women's Rights And Empowerment
One reason women suffer in terms of representation and rights is because people remain complacent on issues that deeply affect them. One of the best way to support women is to stand up for their rights, make sure to expand programs to include them, and never be complacent on something you believe will advance their position in society.
8. Remember That All Emotions Are Valid Emotions
People have a tendency to reduce or minimize female emotions. They're often chalked up to being the result of being on your period or based on the asumption that women just naturally overly emotional creatures; in both cases (and in many more), these excuses are taken as a cue that women's greivances don't have to be taken seriously. One of the most supportive things you can do for the women in your life is to never undermine their emotions and always validate their feelings.
9. Help Them Reach Their Goals
Whether you're a teacher, friend, parent, or executive, understand that the patriarchy is set up to help men succeed; as a result, the system is also stacked against women. There are so few women computer programmers, CEOs, comedians, and more, and it's time for that to change. If a woman or girl aspires to break into a male-dominated industry (or any industry, for that matter), support her as a friend or a higher-up by helping her reach her goals.
10. Cut Each Other Some Slack
We can't all be on our A game all the time.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (10)