Well, my feminist friends, we made it. By some miracle, we made it to the end of the raging bin fire known as 2020 and we’re into 2021, a year that many hoped would act as a much-needed clean slate. Spoiler alert: it’s been a bit of a letdown so far. Between white supremacists storming the U.S. Capitol and new personal transitions that are coming with some growing pains, it’s been a hectic and, in many ways, disheartening start to the year.
That said, I’m not letting it stop me from believing that 2021 will be better – and neither should you. In my first blog post, I mentioned my plan to embrace new year’s resolutions within reason. That’s a plan I have every intention of sticking to. “What are some of my new year’s resolutions?” you ask. Well, one of them is to be a better feminist and a better ally in general.
Sound like something you’d be into? I knew you were here for a reason. So, I figured I’d take this opportunity to share some of my own ideas and goals on how to be a better feminist in 2021 and beyond.
Remember That Feminism Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
In order to be a “better feminist,” we must first ask ourselves what it means to be a “good feminist.” And let’s be honest: there is no single definition. Feminism isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach – nor should it be. For some, feminism is attending rallies and donating to organisations that advocate for equal rights. For others, it’s reading and researching to enhance their understanding of feminist principles. It’s important to figure what works and what is going to be sustainable for you. It’s also important to remember that one approach isn’t necessarily better than the other; ultimately, the fact that you’re making an effort to better yourself and the world around you is a positive step in and of itself.
Recognize Your Internalized Misogyny
We’ve all got it. Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re no exception. Given that there have been systemic forces telling women that they are inferior for as long as we’ve been alive, it would be hard for us to not believe it on some level. Internalized misogyny can manifest in a variety of ways: making negative comments about other women, slut-shaming, feeling like you need to assume or avoid certain roles because of your gender. Trust me, the list goes on. Even the most feminist of feminists have internalized misogyny. You may notice it sometimes in yourself; maybe you see a girl in a revealing outfit and think “Damn, she’s really putting it all out there, isn’t she?” or “Wow, she must be looking for attention.” Like an unwelcome visitor, the thought barges through the door of your mind and you may find yourself wondering: “Where the hell did that even come from?”
Well, now you know. The sooner you can acknowledge your own internalized misogyny, the sooner you can start working to break it down. When you experience an intrusive thought, ask yourself why you would think that way and if it is deserved in the context. Ask yourself if you would have the same perception of a man in the same exact situation. Ask yourself the tough questions and be brutally honest in your answers. Once you start asking, don’t stop. Reducing your internalized misogyny isn’t an overnight process; it needs to be a continuous commitment to bettering yourself as a feminist and an ally.
Take Steps (Even Baby Steps) Toward Sustainability
When you think of feminism, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably not climate change or sustainability. That said, the concepts are inextricably linked. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, particularly in developing countries, because they are more likely than men to live in poverty, to encounter more barriers in accessing basic human rights, and to experience violence in the wake of natural disasters.
With that in mind, try to make an effort to be more sustainable in 2021 and beyond. Maybe cut back on eating meat, switch to a dairy-free milk alternative, or start buying clothes from thrift stores or eco-conscious fashion brands.
Now, look – am I saying that you’re the devil if you buy a t-shirt from Target or eat a burger for dinner? Of course not. In our painfully capitalist society, shopping sustainably is usually incredibly pricey and inaccessible. In other words, being able to shop sustainably is a privilege that many people simply don’t have. Do what you can when you can.
Acknowledge the Importance of Intersectionality
As we know, feminism is an ideology that advocates for equal rights for all people. As a result, we can’t acknowledge the importance of feminism without underscoring the importance of achieving equality on the basis of race, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, class, and more.
Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia and UCLA, the term “intersectionality” describes the way people’s social identities can overlap and how certain social injustices can exacerbate one another. For example, if someone is both Black and a woman, they will face certain barriers and injustices on the basis of both their race and their gender. Oftentimes, the injustices they face will be inextricably linked and can even aggravate one another.
In case you couldn’t already tell, she is a total badass. Last year, in an interview with TIME magazine, she shared some of her fascinating perspectives surrounding the evolution of intersectionality and its place as an ever-relevant fixture in today’s society. While she shared a host of amazing insights, perhaps the most poignant in my eyes was her advice on becoming a better ally. She highlighted the importance of self-interrogation and self-awareness, stating that people need to not only attend to unfair exclusions within society but also to unearned inclusions, calling both elements “part of the equality gambit.”
Pay Sex Workers
It’s 2021. The fact that we’re even still debating whether sex work constitutes real work is frankly mind-boggling. But, since we are, let me say it loud and clear: sex work is real work. And sex workers deserve to be properly compensated for their labour.
If you live in an area where COVID-19 restrictions are more lenient and you’re allowed to visit strip clubs again, tip those dancers. If you’re restricted to virtual viewing, pay for some OnlyFans subscriptions. Instead of heading to PornHub, buy your porn. Not only will this help to ensure that the performers are being ethically paid, but you’ll probably get higher-quality content.
Just Fucking Listen
When you live under the shroud of privilege, it can be hard to imagine the plight of others, let alone truly understand it. When you hear of other people’s suffering, you may find yourself wondering if things are really that bad because surely if they were, something would have been done about it by now or they would have found a way to help themselves. When life for you is so easy, it can be difficult to envision a different reality – because you’ve never had to.
But it’s important to do exactly that. The first step? In conversations centred around oppression, acknowledge your own privilege and just fucking listen. If you’re a man talking to a woman, a white woman talking to a Black woman or a woman of colour, a cisgender or heterosexual individual speaking to a queer or trans person, just listen. Don’t defend, don’t invalidate, don’t recentre the conversation around yourself. Just open your ears and your heart. Listen with intent.