We’re at a turning point in history. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we can do this. We can change our culture.
We can’t change much for those of us who are grown women. Most of us already bear the scars of a million cuts of injustice. We’ve already been knocked off our tracks by sexism and all the different ways we’ve lacked opportunities others have gotten without merit. We can’t undo what’s been done to us.
But we can keep the wheels of justice moving forward in our time to benefit all the girls coming up behind us. To do that, we have to think long-term and keep our eyes fixed on the horizon.
What can we do now that will have a significant impact twenty years in the future?
Every woman and man who wants to improve our world needs to ask themselves that question. There are actions we can all take right now that will ripple out and shake our culture, dislodging the rotten bits.
We lose the battle, but we don’t lose the war.
I’m working on my own long-term strategy right now. I have a special interest in eradicating sexism as well as unequal access to opportunities for anyone, no matter their gender. I’ve faced sexism, poverty, and disability head-on, so these are issues I understand better than I might understand others. (Though, that doesn’t let me off the hook when it comes to fighting against racism or other issues.)
What can I do right now to affect the future?
I can vote in November. I’ll be voting straight Democrat for the first time in my life. (Fair warning: I won’t be engaging in any debates about this in the comments. I was a Republican, and a fairly conservative one, until 2016 so I already know the arguments someone might want to throw at me about that. I’m too polite to let you waste your time like that.) I believe the first step is removing the Republican hold on our government to provide some better checks and balances for the next couple of years. After that, I can use the primaries to get better options on the ballot, and I can do what I can to encourage others to vote in the primaries.
I can continue to speak out about sexualized violence. I can continue to support survivors when they speak up. I can continue to educate non-survivors. The more educated we become about this, the more hope we have of holding predators accountable in the future. I’ll never be able to educate some people, so I’ll focus my efforts on people who are willing to listen and learn. As far as the people who aren’t willing to listen and learn go, I suggest they get out of the way because I won’t continue to tolerate misinformation or enabling behaviors. If their eyes haven’t been opened over this past year, there isn’t much hope for them, and I won’t waste my time anymore holding their hands and gently trying to guide them onto the right side. I won’t indulge time-sucks like that anymore.
I can organize with other women who share my goals. This is exhausting work and we need to support one another as we move forward with it. There are a lot of us out there speaking truth until we burn out. We can tag in and out sometimes and be an emotional support system. There are women out there who are with us, but they aren’t plugged into any group of women who share common goals. That’s something I can work on.
I can look for creative ways to reverse the injustice done by unequal access to opportunities. For the past several months, I’ve been especially concerned with all the women who have dropped out of college after being sexually assaulted. We’ve got ghosts in our workforce—all the women who should be there, but aren’t because of the actions of a predator. There have to be ways we can get some of these women back into school to finish their education and into the workforce to take their rightful places. I believe this is the biggest issue right now for anyone who wants to combat sexism. We need more women in positions of power and authority. That takes education and a large pool of female candidates. We must address the educational and economic cost associated with sexualized violence against women. It’s not just a cost to those individual women. There’s also a societal cost involved. What new and more efficient systems, what groundbreaking products, what medical innovations, what brilliant technologies are we missing out on because the woman who would have brought it to us never got the chance? These women need financial and emotional support to retake their place.
I can look for creative ways to bring more opportunities to people who have disabilities that can make it more difficult, or even impossible, to reach the same levels as people without disabilities. In the spring, some of us were discussing the possibility of making writer’s conferences more accessible by using livecasting or pre-recorded videos for people who can’t travel due to their disability or financial hardship. I got sidetracked with some other projects, but this is still a goal of mine. We need diverse and fresh voices badly if we really want to change our culture, and this is one way to do that.
I’m working on more ways I can help us move in a positive direction, and I’ll continue to update my list as events unfold and I identify needs.
Maybe you’re interested in doing some of these things too. Maybe your focus goes to other causes. Either way, there are things you can do. It’s tempting to feel powerless, and really, in the short-term we pretty much are powerless. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t powerful.
One small act builds on the next. In twenty years, we’ll see the results of all our small acts from today. It takes determination and faith, but we can get there. I hope you’re coming with me.