In America, we’re taught that women gained the right to vote in 1920, but it’s less common knowledge that women of color were left to advocate for themselves. The milestone of voting rights wasn’t achieved for all women until well into the 1960s.
In 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act officially allowed women to serve as full, permanent members of all branches of the Armed Forces. But queer women were asked to live half lives, to remain closeted, until 2011 when they were finally permitted to live openly if they chose. Trans women have only gained the right to serve under their identified gender as of 2021.
Successes in Women’s history come riddled with conditions, exclusions. So, let me make this clear from the start so there is no confusion:
Happy International Women’s Day to all women everywhere. To all races and ethnicities. To queer women and heterosexual. To cis women and women AMAB.
And Happy International Women’s Day to all of the people who love, support, respect, and champion women.
In 2022, there have been major strides in gender equality and inclusion efforts. Women are blowing the hinges off of doors that have traditionally been closed to us. It’s strange to think that, through all of the years of marching and protesting and advocating, we’re still running into instances where we’re seeing ‘first woman’ anything. Like how, in over 200 years, Kamala Harris is the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States. That’s insane to me, but it tracks because, despite our best efforts, we still have a ways to go in terms of gender equality despite the prevalent societal mindset that pressures us to be content with what we have earned thus far, that insists there's nothing more for us to do. This is a dangerous mentality because it either supposes that everything is perfect how it is or that women can't hope to have better.
In many ways, we’re trained by the hivemind of society to see women as inferior creatures to be othered. The tone for how anyone is treated in a society is set by factors like whether their existence is protected by legislature, and whether people are adequately held accountable when they act against that protected group. Then there are secondary sources that contribute to the tone like traditions and the quality of representation available. With that being said, it becomes apparent that the systemic devaluation of women left a stain on our country. Although laws have been passed making it illegal to openly discriminate against women, the mindset of our society has not yet changed.
As a demographic, women are paid less wages than men. However, a considerable amount of people don’t even believe the wage gap is real and, if it is, that women deserve fewer wages because of factors like their pesky habit of getting pregnant at inopportune times, taking time off to raise children, and generally not working as hard as men or in less labor intensive industries. This is sexist rhetoric that does not paint an honest picture of the facts.
Activities and interests that skew to a feminine fanbase are largely regarded as inferior than those which skew masculine. Women and girls who don’t want to be stereotyped feel the need to vocalize their hatred for the color pink, let everyone know that they would never wear a dress or floral print, and that they wouldn’t be caught dead playing with dolls because these are things to be mocked. Also pop music is regarded as ‘not real music’ or ‘basic,’ rom-coms are only to be enjoyed as guilty pleasures, and don’t get me started on the backlash the Young Adult readership gets for their narrative interests.
It is still more socially acceptable to scoff at the terms ‘gender equality’ and ‘positive action.’ For many people, the days of gender based discrimination ended in 1920 when women gained the right to vote. They believe women are not oppressed enough to claim victimhood anymore - not like in those harrowing days of old. They demand to know why women 'victimize themselves?'
All of this is gaslighting. It is invalidating. If you catch yourself doing it, kindly stop. Remind yourself that women, their capabilities, and their diverse interests are not on trial.
The pervasive mindset that women are inferior is what we’re currently fighting against. It impacts how women are treated on both a societal and interpersonal level. Women are still fed human rights, respect, and representation bit by bit, as though those things are privileges. To change the mindset and establish a new standard for the better treatment of girls and women, we need to challenge how we approach women and femininity at its core. No amount of shopping at women owned businesses or following female content creators will supplement a negative attitude that stubbornly tunes out the voices of women when they speak or plays devil's advocate in a conversation about gender equality.
It has been over 100 years since March 8th became an official holiday to recognize the efforts and contributions of women everywhere. We have achieved a lot since then. According to data from the World Bank, in the past fifty years ‘significant progress has been made around the world,’ and, while the pace of reform differs between regions, there has been substantial legal improvement to gender based disparities. Now, we're working to change the culture of societies that have relegated women to walking a step behind men.
But, ladies and allies, we've got this. Reform is not impossible. My hope for the future is that we learn from the past and avoid compartmentalizing the movement based on our differences, and that we continue to take strides to support and validate each other.