Friday, August 18, 2006

Ten Things You Can Do To Better the Lives of Younger Women

Ten Things You Can Do to Better the Lives of Younger Women

1.) Know Your Body. Ask your doctor questions. Regularly check up on developments for health that are related to women. Know what contraception is best for your needs. And if something doesn’t feel right, change it. Learn as much information as you can about your body. Learn whether the HPV vaccine is right for you. But beyond all of that, learn to know what feels best for you body. Figure out what makes it happy and then go for it.

2) Study Hard. If you are a student, work hard while in school, if you’re out of school continue learning new skills. Financial stability is a necessity for younger women, and education is one way to ensure that happens. By being capable of earning your own income, you will feel less pressured to get married for financial reasons. You will have more options and independence if you know you can support yourself. You don’t need a degree or a certificate to dramatically increase your earning potential. The job markets that are growing the fastest are those require vocational training. However, economic circumstances can prevent women from reaching those goals and leaves doors closed. One way to ensure that younger women everywhere can reach financial stability is by working to increase financial aid opportunities as well as to decrease the debt load felt by many younger women who are committed to getting an education.

3) Play Hard. Women who play sports report higher levels of self esteem, are more likely to graduate from college, and receive numerous health benefits. Besides, you get the support you need from a team environment and you learn how to compete in a healthy and constructive way. If you’re still in school start now. Eighty percent of the women leaders in Fortune 500 companies played sports when they were younger. If you’re done with school play sports anyway, adult sport venues like the golf course, tennis course, and local YWCA are great ways to make professional contacts and network. Kick around a soccer ball, go kayaking, join your local hiking group. It might be the key to healthier leader-you!

4) Consume Wisely. Younger women are one of the most sought after consumer groups in the world. As a result, younger women can use this collective buying power as a serious tool for activism. Take for example the work of the young women who organized a “girlcott” against Abercrombie and Fitch for selling blatantly sexist t-shirts. They were able to change company policy. You can also use your buying power to positively support companies and organizations that also support younger women. Don’t shop at places like Target, Walmart, CVS or other pharmacies that don’t guarantee access to contraception. Don’t buy products that use images of younger women in demeaning or objectifying ways just to sell. Buy into something positive instead, like companies with ad campaigns that specifically support younger women instead of objectify them.

5). Stand Up for Younger Women! Sexual harassment can make any space feel unsafe. Walking to your job, at work, riding the subway, and just walking down the street can become harrowing and threatening experiences. When you are in the position of being harassed, it can be harder to speak up and say in a calm voice to “stop disrespecting women.” It can make all the difference in the world if a passerby offers support instead of just ignoring the situation. I was riding public transportation with some friends and when other passengers made comments about my body. Instead of saying something cutting and witty or even expletive-ridden, my friends pretended that the situation wasn’t occurring. Their silence made it that much harder for me to say anything. Worse, by ignoring the situation, they ignored my feelings of discomfort and fury at being called out for being a woman.

6) Abolish Slavery. Despite what you may have learned in history class, slavery is not simply a cruelty of the past. It is a living and brutal reality for the estimated 27 million people still held as slaves around the world. Many of these slaves are younger women who are trafficked and sold across country lines as young wives, housekeepers, or forced to work in brothels. Ending human trafficking and abolishing slavery once and for all is one of the most important steps you can take in order to help younger women across the Globe. Read the stories of ex-slaves, talk to your friends, go to a rally, send money, or commit yourself full time. Don’t stand by and do nothing.

7) Run for Office. The United States ranks 58th for representation of women around the world. It is not enough to simply try and influence the existing policy makers, who everyday make decisions that impact the lives of younger women. Running for office allows you to stay informed, stand up for what you believe in, and actually make a difference. More importantly, you would have the opportunity to create solutions instead of just reacting to the ideas that others have proposed. Support organizations that are working for change like The White House Project and Fair Fund.

8) Make Your Own Headlines. The standard view of the media is that women are collectively tall, tittylicious, skinny, opinionless, mostly white, and able to buy their way into happiness. These images of women are coupled with a news media that ignores the experience of women and provides a narrow world view. With less than 8% of the guests on Sunday morning news talk shows being female, it is necessary to make your headlines. Access to information is key. Creating new avenues for information to be disseminated? Priceless. So make your own blog, start a podcast, or get yourself booked on Sunday morning talk shows on your local cable channel. Heck, even start your own tv show. Making your voice heard by making your own headline.

9) Support LGBT Rights. Working towards full equal rights for LGBT people is necessary. Campaign to have “gender expression” added to the no-harassment clause in your workplace. Make your home a LGBT safe space. Treat your girlfriend well. Support candidates that support full marriage equality. Challenging LGBT discrimination means challenging some of society’s barriers about gender, especially about gender roles. Working to eliminate those barriers helps all women, regardless of whom they love.

10) Join YWTF! Okay, so this seems like a shameless plug, but it is true. In order to help younger women, you should support organizations that are dedicated to furthering the rights of younger women. Joining YWTF gives you the opportunity to join the women’s movement by working on issues that matter the most to you. It will give you the space, the resources, and the community to support those things that help younger women but haven’t been added to lists like these.