Saturday, September 09, 2006

10 MORE Things You Can Do to Better the Lives of Younger Women!

(1) Speak Up! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the only one advocating for women’s issues in my college classes, only to learn later that there are other young women who feel the same way but who didn’t want to say anything. I understand that it can be daunting to speak your mind, especially in the face of opposition, but please, for the sake of all women, say something! For example, if someone in class says that children of working mothers are dysfunctional and violent, engage them in a discussion about whether that’s factual, or a social construct, and why they think it. Don’t be abrasive, but don’t be afraid to debate either. We need to speak up for ourselves, for each other, for women of color, for all women. When we stay silent, we stay complacent.

(2) Be an Ally to Women of Color. This tip is stolen straight from books like White Privilege: Readings on the Other Side of Racism by Paula Rothenberg, which offer being an ally as one way to end racism. If you are a woman of color, be an ally by advocating for yourself and your fellow women; if you’re not, stand up for women of color and have their back. This goes along with the electronic voice on the Metro that says, “if you see something, say something.” So if you see that the black woman ahead of you gets asked for two IDs when using her credit card, offer to give 2 IDs yourself – simple actions like this (along with larger ones) are the ways that we can strip racism of the significant hold it has on our lives.

(3) One Word: 401K. One of the best things you can do for younger women is to tell them to save money for retirement. It may seem silly now, in our 20’s and 30’s, to be anticipating our 70’s and 80’s, but when that day inevitably comes, you’ll want to have a nice nest egg on which to depend. We women are too often neglected when it comes to financial advice, but putting away for retirement is a great source of empowerment for younger women. It means that we’ll have the financial security that men already have, which is ultimately worth more than that recent impulse buy.

(4) Keep an Eye Out. What I mean by this is, watch your friends and colleagues for signs of things that happen to women every day: eating problems, emotionally and physically abusive relationships, sexual harassment, etc. Obviously, I don’t mean for you to stalk younger women and interrogate them on their personal lives. But be aware that, all too often, younger women experience these kinds of issues, and if you notice it happening, try to bring it up in a way that is supportive and not condemning. Women tend to feel trapped into eating problems and dysfunctional relationships, and too much pushing will only make them retreat into themselves further. But be there for them, and be ready to talk about it, and one day they just might open up and ask for help. I’ve noticed that people tend to avoid these uncomfortable situations indefinitely, but when that happens, younger women lose.

(5) Support Woman-Friendly Political Candidates. Make sure that, when you vote (which I’m sure all of you do), you read up on all of the candidates (a couple helpful sites are http://thomas.loc.gov and http://www.vote-smart.org/index.htm). The most important thing you can probably read about each person is her/his voting history. Research like this will show you what the candidates are really interested in, as opposed to what they say to get elected; also, don’t be afraid to see candidates speak and ask them specific questions. If they’re going to represent you, then they better have younger women in mind!

(6) Give Your Fellow Younger Women a Hand Up. If men have the “old boys’ club” we should certainly have a similar (if more inclusive and less disgusting) club of our own. Basically, tell other younger women about job openings and opportunities that will help them reach their goals. And when you succeed, mentor younger women so that they can get to the top too. Working together - simple as that.

(7) Read the News. As depressing as the news can be (especially these days), we have to keep up-to-date on the world around us. For me, that means reading the Express newspaper (the mini version of the Washington Post) on the Metro and scanning the headlines of online versions of progressive newspapers. You can make it more fun by reading blogs to see what’s happening (and usually the blog will link the article itself). But however you get your news, get it – we younger women have to be on top of things if we’re going to be taken seriously, and if each of us stays at least semi-informed, then we’re that much closer.

(8) Smile. I think I can safely say that we all wish people were nicer – so why not start with ourselves? I tripped – pretty much fell – on the Metro escalator today, ending up in a rather embarrassing pose while holding onto the side for dear life. What made it better? The girl next to me who smiled at me when I laughed at myself. These are the kind of insignificant (yet significant) moments that make all of our lives better.

(9) Upkeep Your Relationships. I know we’re all getting through college, applying for jobs, having a tough time at work, trying to take care of kids (and ourselves), and/or are dealing with the many other things that our 20’s and 30’s bring. But, during all the chaos, don’t forget to communicate with your fellow women. Send your mom an e-card, call your sister, send your girlfriend flowers, listen to a friend vent about her job. Just keep your relationships solid, and never take the women in your life for granted.

(10) Defy Stereotypes. This one’s pretty easy, because just by living and being ourselves, we defy the stereotypes that exist about younger women. Play sports. Excel in math and science. Decide not to have children. Skip the make-up. Basically, experiment. Figure out who you are, what you want and make special efforts to try new things without being afraid that you’re not fitting into a certain mold, because after all, it’s the same mold we’re trying to break!

2 comments:

byrdeye said...

Decide not to have children.

Lol, this self-deceptive road has already been travelled before...and leads to a very bitter, lonely end.

Better, more natural advice is for women to snag a good guy by their prime fertility age at 23 (when they are at their most attractive with the most leverage and selection) and have kids then. Instead of partying their youth away, and then having nothing to show for it once their window closes.

There is NOTHING progressive or noble about denying our evolutionary biological natures...which always triumphs over artificial programming in the end anyways... Instead, you will just look back with regret at what a foolish young sucker you were.

Janell said...

I'd agree with byrdeye that breaking the mold for the mere sake of breaking the mold is a foolish notion; but I agree with Katy that it is important to expiriment, find out who you are, and be true to yourself rather than societies expectations.

Not all women who delay childrearing are "partying their youth away." In many situations children are a detriment to one's career growth or education. Similiarly, if you have children at 23 you'll be supporting them until you're at least 41. It's for each person to decide what is best for her or him.