7 Easy Feminist-Inspired Strategies That’ll Make a Difference
From speaking out to getting involved, here's what you can do.
Now is the time to take action. We’ve mapped out our seven feminist-inspired strategies—many of which came directly from the men and women who completed our State of the Sisterhood survey. “The voices of the marginalized minority, ‘other’ women, need to be heard and not interpreted through the lens of the majority,” wrote one respondent. “Don’t tell marginalized women what they think, how they feel, what they experience. Listen and hear.” On that note, we want to hear from you—and we want to help promote your efforts. If our suggestions inspire you to take action, tag any of your social media activities #stateofsisterhood and we’ll help to spread the news.
Personalize your message: A lot of compelling arguments can be made over dinner, so don’t underestimate your ability to shape the world by talking to your family, community and social and professional networks. “As the feminist slogan says, ‘The personal is political,’” says Lori Williams, an associate professor who teaches a Women in Politics class at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. “Challenging sexist attitudes or remarks expressed by a friend, colleague or family member can have political effects.”
Send a message: It doesn’t take long to email your political representatives, post a Facebook message or engage on social media—but how often do we think to do it? A report by the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research cites that 41 per cent of 15- to 29-year-old women self-censor, compared to 33 per cent of men of the same age. And minority groups under 30 years old self-censor, too. An absence of online voices from the public conversation can be a big issue. Don’t leave a gap.
Get creative: Here are some examples of women putting their artistic talents to good use. Françoise Mouly, art director at The New Yorker, and her daughter, writer Nadja Spiegelman, are the guest editors of a special-edition newspaper called Resist! They put a call out to LGBTQ and female artists to create artwork in reaction to Trump’s election. It’s being printed in time for the inauguration, when 55,000 copies will be distributed featuring some of the more than 1,000 entries. And check out the digital publishing platform issuu, where you can read dozens of feminist zines for free—and maybe be inspired to create your own.
Make a statement with your clothes: Wear a slogan T-shirt like Dior’s “We should all be feminists”—the phrase is the title of an essay by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (In our survey, 94 per cent of you felt you could be a feminist and a fashion lover.) And while the “age of the pantsuit” may be over, who’s to stop us from sporting a Balenciaga power suit of our own? Or a piece from Prabal Gurung’s Gloria Steinem-inspired collection of T-shirts and bias-cut dresses embroidered and printed with quotes like Susan B. Anthony’s “They threw things at me then but they were not roses.”
Make a statement with your makeup: Late last year, Alicia Keys was both praised and vilified for her promotion of the #NoMakeup movement, which she hoped would launch a revolution. She said she’s not anti-makeup—but she also doesn’t want to feel beholden to it. We asked readers for their thoughts on feminism and makeup because women have often been criticized for wearing either too much or too little. When it comes to makeup, 50 per cent of those surveyed said they are somewhere between Alicia Keys’s no-makeup makeup look and a Kardashian’s look. As one respondent said, “Stop policing people’s appearances! Stop telling a woman that her only worth is her looks and then shaming her for caring about them. Ugh.”
Keep it simple: Volunteer. Do community work. Protest. Donate time and money to causes you believe in. Mentor or sponsor other women. Participate in or support something like Equal Voice’s Daughters of the Vote initiative, where 338 young women from across Canada will take a seat in Parliament on March 8—International Women’s Day (IWD)—to talk about their vision for Canada. (Equal Voice is a Canadian organization dedicated to electing more women to political office.) Or, celebrate IWD by engaging with this year’s #BeBoldForChange campaign to close the gender gap.
Change the narrative
Speak up: “Lift her up, don’t lock her up.” That is the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters’s recent campaign message—an effort to support all women in politics—which was coined in early December after a crowd at a political rally in Edmonton chanted “Lock her up” in response to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s political views. Changing the narrative is also how Donald Trump’s “nasty woman” comment during a debate was turned into a viral pro-women campaign complete with slogan T-shirts, artwork and fundraising for Planned Parenthood. In person and online, make a conscious effort to amplify the positive things other women say. In our survey, 41 per cent of you agreed that sometimes women judge other women more harshly than men if they feel they have been dishonest or untrustworthy.
Know what to say: Like a lot of things in life, it helps if you do a little prep work. Figure out ahead of time some strategies to deal with people who don’t share your beliefs—and learn about the issues so you have informed examples at hand. “I often hear from students struggling with how to respond to sexist or racist remarks,” says Williams. Here are her top five tips for knowing what to say:
Try to imagine being in the situation
“Brainstorm options with others, and practise engaging in conversations through role-playing or debate or speech programs.”
“They provoke thought long after an encounter. For example, instead of saying ‘You’re a sexist/racist’ try ‘Do you think someone listening to what you said might think you’re a sexist/racist?’”
“It’s very effective at diffusing a situation and allows for a lighthearted challenge. It’s a time-honoured technique used by Agnes Macphail, our first female MP, who was elected in 1921. When she was once asked in Parliament if she really wished she were a man, she retorted ‘Doesn’t the honourable gentleman wish he was?’”
“Most people aren’t aware of the errors they are making. Try saying something like ‘Can you repeat that?’ or ‘Did you just say that?’ or ‘That’s not what I would have expected from you.’”
Watch your own language and stereotypes
“Hold a mirror up to yourself. I decided one day that I would no longer call people animals like the ‘b-word’ or body parts like ‘a-hole.’ We have to be open to the possibility that we can sound sexist or racist, too; we all make mistakes.”
Know how to respond: When it comes to dealing with more serious cases of online trolls or attacks—something female Canadian politicians from all parties have increasingly been dealing with—not everyone agrees on how to proceed. Some advocate blocking and ignoring trolls so as not to give them a voice or eyeballs, while others take them on, online, in the media—and in court. Calgary-North West MLA Sandra Jansen recently took the unprecedented step of repeating, in the Alberta legislature, some of the hateful online comments sent to her. (Other Canadian female political leaders have done the same on national news broadcasts.) “Calling out that behaviour makes it less acceptable for people to say those things,” says Jansen. “I also have a pretty aggressive blocking policy,” she adds. “If people cross the line and become abusive, they don’t deserve a reply.” Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel, on the other hand, often takes on Twitter trolls online, sometimes even retweeting them. In fact, she’s even tweeted her strategy for how to do deal with it:
“1) review 2) ignore if ignorant 3) shame if sexist 4) report if threatening 5) block if offensive/non-constructive 6) wine.”
Be grateful – but not complacent
Know the facts: One thing Canadians observed closely in the past year is how our country has been held up as a global bright spot for more sensible political decorum. For the first time, we have a gender-balanced federal Cabinet. And last year, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley appointed a gender-balanced cabinet that included two pregnant women and an openly gay man. But Canadian women still have only 26 per cent representation in Parliament. Despite this, 67 per cent of you said you would not consider running to be an elected official. But 56 per cent of you also said you don’t think there are enough women making top political and economic decisions in Canada. “This isn’t surprising,” says Williams. “There are many reasons for women’s reticence—at the top of the list are the small number of female role models in politics.” Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice, sees the election of Trump as a catalyst to restart a conversation about gender balance in politics. “While there has been progress in Canada, and, yes, we are doing better than the United States, one can’t take representation for granted in terms of the election of women and other under-represented groups,” she says. “During the 2015 federal election, Equal Voice projected that it could take up to 90 years to achieve parity in the House of Commons, given the exceedingly slow rise in the percentage of women in the House. We need far more women running for office, at every level of government.”
Vote and support politicians and community and business leaders who stand for what you believe in—there is power in the right to choose. Just 68 per cent of Canadians voted in the 2015 federal election—and that’s the highest voter turnout in more than two decades