In today's political climate especially, your inner feminist might be craving world domination; sometimes, though, it's the smaller steps that deserve your attention. There are subtly feminist actions to take in your everyday life that maybe whisper an important message, instead of shouting it from the rooftops. Does that make them any less effective? Certainly not.
People are opening their wallets to organizations like Planned Parenthood, going so far as to make donations in Vice President Mike Pence's name. (This will never get old.) The Women's March on Washington set records due to the millions of people who joined, and their organized efforts continue on a daily basis. Magnificent women like Elizabeth Warren are pushing boundaries, speaking out, and standing up for what they believe in. These are remarkable contributions; but don't think you can't measure up just because you don't have a lot of money to donate or aren't a well-known public figure.
Every bit counts — even if it's small actions you're taking at work, in your personal relationships, or in the clothes you choose to wear. If you want to keep bursting through the threshold getting in our way, here are nine subtle ways you can do so.
1. Wear What You Want, Without Apology
We're always concerned with filling in a certain label: Employee, girly girl, parent. When we color outside the lines, sometimes we're a little hard on ourselves for it; and sometimes, other people can be too.
Take this, as an example of just how stereotyped our fashion choices can be: Research suggests that wearing a low-cut dress in a job application photo can significantly improve you chances of getting an interview. Many would celebrate this as good news, but the sad truth is that in many cases, your appearance dictates what people think of your capability to successfully complete a job. What do we do when cleavage (or a lack thereof, if you're me) can make or break your odds of getting an interview?
The answer is clear: Wear whatever the heck you want. Fashion is personal, and the more we normalize our individual styles, the less likely a potential employer is to dismiss us just because we opted for a turtleneck over a tube top (or vice versa).
2. Have An Opinion And Be Assertive, Even If You're In The Minority
Because women are socialized to be agreeable, even at the expense of their own comfort or wants and needs, we're often hesitant to disagree because we be labeled as a "b*tch," or overly opinionated, or — my personal favorite/the one I hate the most — "too sensitive" and "emotional." It would seem that the best way to be well-liked is... to never have an opinion.
But what fun is that?
Assertive women walk a tightrope, because depending on the situation (in our current culture, at least), such a trait can work against them. For example, take asking for a raise at work. Women already make less than men; and to make matters worse, women who ask for a raise are found less likable. Men, as you probably guessed, are not.
Is the solution to walk on eggshells so as not to tarnish your squeaky clean reputation? What does that solve? Don't be afraid to politely and professionally disagree during your next team meeting. Don't shy away from telling your boss why you deserve a bigger paycheck. When you stand up for yourself, you stand up for women everywhere.
3. Give Yourself Permission To Quit Apologizing, Especially For Saying No
Research has found that indeed, women apologize more than men. Men aren't actively resisting apologizing; and when they think they're wrong, they surely do. The difference is that they think they're wrong less frequently. What some of us don't realize, though, is that apologizing is often our way of expressing what we believe are our own inadequacies — even if we're doing it subconsciously.
You absolutely have permission to stop apologizing for things you have no reason to be sorry for, including but not limited to:
- Saying no (because, dear God, you don't owe anyone an explanation.
- Eating something delicious, whenever and in whatever quantity you want.
- Crying or showing emotion.
4. Be As Nice To Yourself As You Are To Everyone Else
You compliment a friend on her outfit, but can't look in the mirror and say, "Damn, girl." You pat a coworker on the back for a job well done, but have trouble giving yourself kudos for landing that new client.
Worse yet, the word "can't" is a regular visitor in your vocabulary. And without even realizing it, you're limiting yourself more than anyone else, because you've already decided that regardless of other people's opinions, you don't believe in yourself.
Negative talk has physical consequences — like an increased risk of heart disease and depression. If you were to say something mean to someone else, it might upset them. What do you think it's doing to you?
Also important to note, when we insult ourselves, we give other people permission to do the same. We can set our own examples, though, including treating ourselves kindly.
5. Consume Media That Has A Positive Impact
I remember my first experiences watching Girls. I was shocked to see a naked Lena Dunham not even remotely shy to have her beautiful body on display, if though it's not what our culture's (arbitrary) standards consider as "beauty." Which is why we need to dismiss those standards completely.
By watching shows like Girls where women look how they want, dress like they want, are gorgeously flawed and filled with raw emotion, sleep with whoever, wherever, whenever... we're giving the middle finger to the standards which have been imposed on us.
6. Get Lost In Classic Feminist Books
The Feminine Mystique. The Bell Jar. The Handmaid's Tale. These are just a few books that appear on Goodread's list of popular feminist classic books. Spend an hour or 12 in the pages of one of these fantastic reads. I guarantee you'll learn a thing or two (and you're going to enjoy yourself while you're at it).
7. Treat Yourself Like Royalty
Why is treating ourselves well so often followed by self-induced guilt? One study found that nearly half of the women they surveyed said they don't have enough free time — which stinks because women who do give themselves "time off" report being more satisfied in life. Here's the problem: This lack of time is self-imposed. We busy ourselves with laundry, cleaning, cooking, and other household responsibilities, because (as the study found) we take on 11 home-related tasks, while men take two — and two that need to be done less frequently, at that (repairs and yard work).
In our current world, if we want more time to take care of ourselves and pamper ourselves and make ourselves happy, nobody is going to give it to us. We have to give it to ourselves.
8. Do Things Alone Without Any Shame
According to some research, in general, women express higher levels of loneliness than men. But there is no reason to hate spending time by yourself. Solitude can improve concentration and productivity, help you solve problems more easily, recharge your brain, and better your relationships. In certain cases, it can help ease the symptoms of depression; and for introverts, alone time is often the key to happiness.
Don't shy away from doing things by yourself — whether it's traveling alone or going on a hot dinner date with yourself. It doesn't make you the pathetic, lonely girl. It makes you strong, independent, and self-assured.
9. Support Women- And Minority-Owned Businesses In Your Area
This one is easier than you think. I live in Las Vegas, and all I have to do is Google, "women owned businesses in Las Vegas" to find tons of local places run by ladies. This isn't to say that we shouldn't support all local businesses. But since 2016 estimates put women-owned businesses in the United States at around 38 percent, it's obvious we still need to be supporting each other at a professional level.