International Women's Day has always been a bittersweet holiday for me. As a feminist, the day means more than, "Yay, ladies, here — have some flowers," or playing "Who Run The World" 100 times. Well, I'm still going to listen to Beyoncé all day — who am I kidding? However, IWD is also a chance for us to reflect on another year of noticing and fighting for the rights of all women — for their struggles and survival; for the appreciation of fellow feminists in our lives who have dedicated their lives to making things better for all women. It's a day of celebration, sure, but also of reflection and dreaming of the year(s) to come. When it comes to how you can make life better for women, the answers are as endless as there are ways to be a woman.
The ways that women are harmed and sold short are not relegated to one area of life or one single issue. While some are violent and have hugely devastating effects like sexual assault, violence and poverty, there are many more covert forms of discrimination and injustice that stack themselves on top of these huge behemoths of problems. They're the things that can make us feel awful without us even really realizing why. It's the little things that stack and stack and stack with us barely noticing — or without us being able to even name them — that change our experiences day-to-day. So this IWD I wanted to dream about some of the ways — big and small — that I'd like to see the fashion and beauty industries move toward justice to treat all women better.
1. Get Rid Of Parabens And Other Dangerous Ingredients In Cosmetics And Self-Care Items
While not all women use cosmetics and not everyone who uses cosmetics is a woman, the fact that things like formaldehyde and endocrine-disrupting parabens are still in the products that many women slather on their faces and bodies is — and should be — alarming. We're being told that our bodies aren't good enough or pretty enough without cosmetics through advertisements, and we are then poisoning ourselves with the use of those products. In my future, we only wear makeup when we want to and it doesn't hurt us whatsoever.
2. Wage Equality And Living Wages For Everyone
Okay: Patricia Arquette's Oscars speech was kind of onto something, but was also arguably wrong, y'all. We know this by now, I hope. Wage equality is no joke — especially for women of color, queer women, and trans women — and the fashion and beauty industries are called "industries" because they generate a lot of income. There's definitely more than enough to go around, and I'd like to see the industries reach parity — for everyone. This doesn't just include equal pay for the American employees in corporate offices: I really mean everyone. From factory workers to retail employees and beyond, everyone deserves a living wage for work that's equal to that of their colleagues.
3. End "Empowertising"
While I am 100 percent here for companies like Dear Kate that are genuinely including diverse women in all of their campaigns and lookbooks, I'm not here for the companies that put out one "feel good" ad and then continue to sell products with harmful messaging the rest of the time. That's just exploitative and manipulative. The more truly positive representations and messaging we receive, the less likely we are to buy in to any old thing that isn't basically telling us we're hideous.
4. Skin Lightening Creams Have Got To Go — And So Does The Racism That Facilitates Their Existence
Skin lightening/bleaching creams are just about as dangerous as they sound. Aside from other harmful chemicals, the creams are found to have high levels of extremely toxic mercury. We need to ban these creams for sure, but more importantly, we need to drop the racism/colorism that's making people feel the need to use these creams in the first place.
5. No More Cultural Appropriation
Cultural appropriation is a feminist issue and as long as there are women of color in our world, it will continue to be. This year, we need to finally stop erasing the identities and cultures of people by "borrowing" clothing and accessories we think are cute. I'd love to see more designers work with respected artisans from those communities to create culturally appropriate collabs instead.
Images: Fotolia; Getty