Most people would probably agree the United States has its problems, beginning with the fact that, somehow, Donald Trump became the president elect in November. I know that statement can make it easy to feel completely hopeless — but instead of giving up on the country and sailing the world in a submarine (that's just about as isolated as you can get, in my opinion), try making some resolutions that will actually make America great for everyone — not just rich white men with tiny hands and a bad comb over.
To be fair, New Year's resolutions can be hard to keep. I think the longest I've ever managed to stick to one was when I promised myself I would watch fewer cat videos, and that only lasted about 30 seconds because my internet went down and I literally couldn't watch cat videos. That being said, 2016 was a tough year for pretty much everyone — and I don't know about you, but I definitely don't want to repeat any of this year's nonsense. So with that in mind, here are a few resolutions for the new year that will actually make America great. They're totally doable, and trust me: things might seem bleak, but now is the time to come together.
Psst! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017 starting Jan. 1. Right now, tweet @bustle about how you plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Use the hashtag #2017IRL, and your tweet could be featured on our app.
There are issues with lack of equal gender representation in many professions, and women, in particular, are underrepresented in many industries. Politics are particularly male-dominated, though. Although the number of women in Congress has grown over time, women still make up less than 20 percent of the House and Senate — even after the 2016 election. Put another way, more than three quarters of Congress is male, but they're making decisions about issues that deeply influence women's lives.
There's a reason representation matters; when woman politicians are elected, other women benefit. According to Vox, research has shown that women are more likely to sponsor bills related to women's health, children's issues, and welfare policy, amongst other areas. In short, one of the best ways to protect women's rights is to support female politicians. 2017 isn't a big election year, but there are still a few local elections going on, and there's always political campaigning to be done.
This is an important one. Even if Trump reneges on his (preposterous) promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, he built his campaign on xenophobic, nationalist rhetoric, and he has even threatened to create an American Muslim registry. He later partially walked back on that latter threat, but it certainly doesn't create a welcoming climate. So, in 2017, be the change you want to see: If you see an instance or racism or xenophobia call it out. The only way we can fight hate is with love.
While lawmakers in some states attempted to severely limit access to abortion, hashtags like #ShoutYourAbortion also made efforts to fight feelings of shame associated with the procedure. While efforts like the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag are important and did a lot to help progress be made, we're all just beginning to chip away at the stigma. Help the process along with one simple action: Talk about abortion.
The protests at Standing Rock may have resulted in a historic victory, but that doesn't mean the issues facing the Native American people are over. Native American women are some of the most underpaid in the country, and many Native American communities suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty. Don't let Standing Rock and all the other problems facing Native Americans be forgotten.
The wage gap may be widely discussed these days, but little is actually being done about it. Take a cue from women like actress Emmy Rossum, who successfully negotiated equal pay as her male co-star William H. Macy on Shameless — and then a raise to make up for the years she was paid less than him. Get yours, girls.
If you want to make your voice heard, use the existing system to your benefit. Say goodbye to the silent majority, and contact your representatives. One way to keep up with local issues is with services like Daily Action Alerts, which puts you in touch with politicians every business day.
Regardless of whether it influenced the election results in any significant way, fake news has become a serious problem on the internet. Last month, a BuzzFeed investigation found that misleading and outright false news about the election on Facebook outperformed election news from 19 major news outlets, and thinkpiece after thinkpiece has been written about how 2016 became the year of fake news. Fortunately, ending its spread is easy enough: Check your sources, especially before you share anything on social media .
Speaking of social media, 2017 should be the year we step out of the echo chamber. Studies have shown that people tend to be friends and interact with those similar to themselves. This self-imposed ideological isolation has undoubtedly played a role in developing the current polarized political climate, so step outside your comfort zone and talk to people with viewpoints other than your own.
There are lots of organizations across the country providing women's healthcare and family planning, but Planned Parenthood, having helped millions of people around the country, is one of the most important. However, the organization's federal funding has been targeted by conservatives for years, and one of its most vehement opponents, Mike Pence, was just elected vice president of the United States. Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are becoming a true threat to women's health; in 2015, a study found that when local clinics shut down, the rate of unintended pregnancies rises in that area. In 2017, donate to the organization or speak out against defunding when you can.
It's safe to say women's health and abortion clinics can use all the help they can get, especially as they're often the site of protests by anti-abortion activists. Give back to your local clinic by volunteering as a clinic escort, or in some other capacity.
Despite what many conservatives may believe, climate change is backed by quite a bit of evidence. Unless some serious technological advancements are made soon, Earth is the only home we've got — so, we have to take care of it. Recycle, reduce your waste, and find other ways to reduce your impact on the environment.
Following the election, the mood was certainly somber among many feminists. (I know I didn't emerge from my cocoon of Hillary Clinton biographies and blankets for days.) But it's been long enough that it's time to accept that Trump will be our next president, and to start preparing accordingly. That said, remember that it's not the end of the world — there have been all kinds of ups and downs in America's history, and we didn't survive them by simply giving up. It's OK to be afraid, but it's important we all band together and do the best we can to really make America a safe, great place to be.
Also, don't move to Canada. We need each other here.
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App starting on January 1 for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017.
Images: Hannah Burton/Bustle (3); Bustle (12)