10 Ways to Empower Women This Women’s History Month

What do you think of when you think of women’s history?

Early 20th-century suffragettes? Civil Rights Movement leaders? Pioneering astronauts?

Fast forward. We’re writing history today.

Women’s history is no relic. It’s not just black-and-white snapshots of century-old movements.

It’s Black Lives Matter. It’s the Women’s March. It’s the female scientists and activists and writers and artists who are making change as we speak.

Starting Women’s History Month 2017, here are a few things that folks need to remember now in the fight for women’s empowerment.

1. In your calls for unity, don’t forget the women whom mainstream feminism has left behind.

Pop quiz: When did American women get the right to vote?

If you say 1920, you’re partly right. White women could vote then with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

In theory, so could black women. But it wasn’t until 1965 with a new Voting Rights Act when they could go to the polls without overt threat of violence.

Native women also had to wait more than 40 years to vote in all 50 states. Some women with disabilities can’t even vote now.

Women of color have been fighting for gender equity from the beginning. Ditto for disabled women and LGBT women.

Nearly 30 years after black feminist Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality,” it’s past time to amplify their issues as “women’s issues” too.

2. Grow a thinner skin and call out casual sexism. 

Through the 1970s and early 80s, the United States openly tolerated workplace sexual harassment and even assault. Some companies (like Uber and the U.S. military) seem to continue this sexist tradition today.

Should we be surprised?

Most people still treat casual sexism as normal, and sexual harassment is just a few steps of escalation away.

As Lauren Longo argues on Care2, witnesses need to speak up, not just roll their eyes. Enough with worrying about rocking the boat or dismissing the B.S. as “just the way [insert misogynist's name] is.”

Answer a sexist comment with an, “I don’t agree.” Amplify women who are interrupted at meetings.

3. Support reproductive health access.

Reproductive freedom has been under fire for more than a century.

The powers-that-be have framed abortion as “infanticide” since the mid-1800s. Access to the birth control pill has always been under attack. Poor women, unmarried women and women of color and with mental illness were coercively sterilized throughout the 20th century.

Today, folks are still defending accurate sex education, affordable contraception, STI prevention and testing, and safe, legal abortion.

But moving forward, remember to include the folks you might not think of when you put on your pussy hat.

Lesbian and bisexual girls are most likely to get pregnant as teenagers. They and trans women need reproductive health access just as much as any straight, cisgender woman.

4. Support women with your dollars.

Rosie the Riveter is often the go-to image of working women in this culture. It’s time to make modern businesswomen just as poignant.

Women-owned businesses are on the rise, especially those run by black women. They’re still more likely to struggle than those owned by white men.

If you can afford to, choose to frequent these businesses. (See sites like The Small Black Business Directory if you aren’t sure where to start.)

5. Run for office. 

In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in Congress. In 1969, Shirley Anita Chisholm became the first black woman elected. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly LGBT senator elected in 2012.

These trailblazers succeeded despite a horrendous gender disparity, which still persists. If you have the gumption, go into politics.

Even if you aren’t a woman, you can infiltrate the establishment with your feminist ideas.

Can’t run? Vote.

6. Defend protection for refugee and immigrant women.

In the modern immigration fight, many like to hearken back to how the U.S. was built by immigrants. To a point that’s true, excluding black slave and Native Americans.

But our country has also long mistreated immigrants. The xenophobia continues into present day.

In war-torn areas, refugee camps and even working legally in the U.S., immigrant women face a disproportionate amount of physical and sexual violence.

Supporting refugee protection and immigrant amnesty empowers women.

7. Be an active bystander.

For a long time, women of color in particular have been demonized for protecting themselves. On the other side, our culture has a long history of looking the other way and enabling violence.

This continues present day.

See something? Say something.

Intervening when you witness something that isn’t right can be simple.

Sometimes all you need to do if you witness someone getting harassed on the street is walk beside them. Or call 911 when you hear the couple next door getting violent.

8. Vow to do better yourself. 

Patriarchy has been around since the birth of our country.

No wonder most people have internalized some sexist idea or another.

Maybe it’s overt, like objectifying women or wondering what a survivor was wearing as if that could somehow justify a rape. Or maybe it’s more subtle, like not hanging around women because, “There’s too much drama,” or habitually talking over them.

Check your assumptions, apologize if you mess up and moving on to be better.

9. Celebrate women’s accomplishments. 

Women’s history has long been erased. Shine the spotlight on women who are succeeding despite the odds against them.

Films like Hidden Figures and shows like “We’ve Been Around” highlight the forgotten history on black and trans women, respectively. Also, turn your gaze forward to modern trailblazers in science, advocacy and literature.

10. Demand accountability for gender parity. 

If you don’t look hard enough, it’s easy to look at women’s rights as something already achieved.

Don’t let society off the hook. Scrutinize everything.

Take a look around work. Do you get paid family leave and sick time? What about equal pay for equal work? Are there women represented in management positions, and do those women reflect the diversity of the area you live in? Does your workplace culture empower women to speak or shrug off their concerns?

Take a look at your local law enforcement. Are they listening to women of color? Do they test rape kits on a timely basis? Are women getting disproportionately punished for defending themselves in domestic violence cases? How are female prisoners at area jails and prisons treated? In specific, how are trans women treated? What about pregnant women?

Take a look at your schools. Do they treat issues of sexual harassment and assault seriously, or do they try to sweep those issues under the rug? Are non-male students pushed to speak up and listened to enough? Are the faculty, students and curriculum diverse?

In short, if things aren’t right, speak up. This is what makes history.

Photo Credit: amslerPIX


Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago


Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago


Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Olivia H
Past Member 1 years ago

thank you

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Sabrina D
Past Member 1 years ago

Thank you vero much; I agree above all with points 4 and 8.

Beth M
Beth M2 years ago


Janis K
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.