The feminist movement has been changing since its inception in the early 1900s. And feminism in fact needs to continue changing and evolving over time in order to face new challenges, create new means of empowerment, and expand to include under-represented women who have not traditionally been allowed in mainstream feminist spaces. Particularly in response to the very serious issues of street harassment and the rape culture that pervades so much of the U.S., feminist causes have been rising up and proving themselves to be a force for good, with messages that deserve to be heard and taken seriously. There truly are some incredible, empowering feminist causes to get involved with.
We all have causes that are closer to our hearts than others, but as an enthusiastic and unapologetic feminist, I am extremely content to focus on causes and movements that work to empower all women, and seek to educate broader society about solutions to gender-based discrimination. Education, inclusion, action, and empowerment are the cornerstones of the success the feminist movement has seen thus far, and are necessary now more than ever as the movement as a whole seeks to tackle new and challenging problems.
If you are seeking to learn more about what is happening with contemporary feminism, and want to know how you can get involved with important causes that are newer to the scene than other awesome organizations like NOW and the Center for Reproductive Rights, consider offering support to these five causes.
Hollaback! is a "non-profit and movement to end street harrassement." Started in 2011, Hollaback! works with local activists in 92 cities and 32 countries across the world, to educate communities about what street harassment is, why women are targets of street harassment, and to come up with solutions that "ensure equal access to public spaces." You can also use the Hollback! website to share your experiences of street harassment, and map the places where you experience harassment. Truly on the forefront of making all women feel safe and comfortable in public, Hollaback! is a great cause to become involved with. If you want to learn more, you can check them out at www.ihollaback.org.
Also started in 2011, SlutWalk is a transnational movement and annual march that is organized to protest rape culture. During the marches, some participants will wear little or no clothing, with the intent of making the statement that a woman is never "asking" for sexual assault or rape, no matter what they are or are not wearing. The nudity aspect that is embraced by some participants has given the movement a somewhat controversial reputation, but it is a very active movement with a clear and important mission. SlutWalks are organized at the local level, and a quick search on the web or Facebook will let you know if there is a SlutWalk in your area.
Trans-inclusive feminism is an intersection of feminism that all of us should be working to support and embrace. Writer Laura Kacere wrote for Everyday Feminism that "We can’t just call out transphobic attitudes – we have to allow trans people a non-tokenized voice and space in our movement." She argues that feminism will be strongest when it actively includes and amplifies the voices of further marginalized women, such as trans women and women of color.
Stop Telling Women To Smile
Stop Telling Women to Smile is an art movement with a message. Also focusing on street harassment, STWTS was created by Brooklyn artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh in 2012. In her art series, Fazlalizadeh draws portraits of women who have experienced gender-based street harassment, and includes a message below the portrait that is directed at harassers. Messages like "harassing women does not prove your masculinity," and "women are not seeking your validation" make succinct and bold statements that we all need to read.
VIDA is a research-based organization that aims to elevate women in contemporary literature, as well as provide information about gender gaps in the literary industry and communities. The organization is also working to gather a dataset that will count and track how many women of color are published in journals, press outlets, and other publications. By creating yearly datasets that cover over 1,000 data points regarding women in literature, VIDA provides concise, data-driven research on gender issues within the literary arts. Their data is gathered by volunteers, and you can check out http://www.vidaweb.org/volunteer if you want to get involved.