It's International Women's Day again, a holiday once known for its roots in socialism and labor movements that has turned into an opportunity for brands to sell products based on cynical notions of "women's empowerment."
Like much of contemporary feminism, International Women's Day has been sapped of its politics: Instead, every year, women are fed pollyannaish platitudes about their strength and courage, even as those with the power to improve the material conditions of women's lives decline to do so. In many cases, the people spouting inspirational quotes and promoting girl power on this day are the same ones furthering policies and values designed to silence and thwart women.
Making women's lives more bearable requires a collective struggle not just to reform but to tear down the institutions that have contributed to their systematic oppression. But while we're engaged in that long struggle, there are small but meaningful actions we can take every day that can move us closer to feminist justice.
Last International Women's Day, Broadly contributor Dani Beckett—with the help of some crowdsourcing—came up with 100 such small actions, inspired by an annual list she would post to her social media accounts. Beckett explained: "A few years ago I started compiling a list of easy actions that men can take to meaningfully support gender equality. Every year, I would post it on social media. Slowly, other women started contributing suggestions. So the list grew. And grew. It will likely never stop growing."
She's right—this year, Broadly is adding 100 more to the list, focusing on areas such as abortion rights, women's health, transgender rights, and sex work. As Beckett reminded us last year, these suggestions are applicable to every day of the year, not just International Women's Day.
Take a look:
1. Understand that reproductive health, pay parity, maternity leave, and whatever other issues you associate with women are, in fact, everyone’s issues. Engage with them accordingly.
2. Trust women who say they are experiencing physical pain. 3. Don’t explain women’s own bodies to them—like this man who tried to explain vaginas to a gynecologist on Twitter. 4. Don’t equate vaginas with womanhood. 5. Attend protests and rallies supporting abortion rights and listen to the women leading them. 6. Do not shame women and girls for period stains or accidents. 7. Do not shame women for the period products they use. 8. Do not question or pressure women about pregnancy and rearing children.
9. Do not say "pro-life," but instead, "anti-abortion" or “anti-choice.” 10. Donate what you can to local organizations fighting for women’s reproductive health.
11. In a classroom, ask yourself how much time is used up by men in the room speaking in comparison to women, then make sure you’re not part of the problem. 12. If you know a woman has been waiting to speak but you’re called on first, cede your time to her. 13. Do not assume girls are only interested in traditionally gendered activities and subjects. 14. Encourage students to question current paradigms and consider how the most marginalized are affected by policy. 15. Encourage exploration of clothing, activities, and interests—not bound by gender bias. 16. Be cognizant of your privilege and listen to women rather than talk over them to center your position. 17. If your teacher or professor attempts to divide the class up by gender for a game, project, etc., ask that they reconsider.
18. Tell women how much money you make. 19. Don’t avoid mentoring women because you fear being accused of sexual harassment. 20. Many important decisions and colleague bonding happens when buds hang out after work. Make sure you’re inviting your female colleagues out for drinks, lunch, or whatever else you’re already doing with your male colleagues. 21. Don’t just hire women. Promote them to the highest positions of leadership. 22. Talk to the manager of a female colleague who is doing good work, and let her direct supervisor know. 23. If you hear a male colleague say something inappropriate, let him know—not just when there are other women in earshot. 24. Point out when work being credited to someone else should actually be credited to a woman. 25. Advocate for flexible work policies, like family leave and working remote, even when it doesn’t directly benefit you. 26. Help make sure it’s not just women doing the work to make the workplace more equal for everyone. Pitch in.
27. Not sure of someone’s pronouns? Use “they” to be safe, or ask, when appropriate. Even better, start by offering your own when you introduce yourself. 28. Volunteer to do non-promotable tasks, which women are more likely to volunteer for, like taking notes during a meeting. 29. Invited to speak on an all-male panel? Recommend a woman colleague instead. 30. Help make pads and tampons free and accessible in women's bathrooms. Ask your company to label them “menstrual products” instead of “feminine products.” 31. Do not belittle women for needing to take time off for period pains. 32. Do not create barriers of entry by excluding women from social or networking activities because of "boys' clubs." 33. Ask HR about gender-neutral bathrooms. 34. Ask HR about diversity quotas when they're hiring at your company. 35. Do not be overbearing and bombard women coworkers with your knowledge of feminist theory—just be an advocate for their rights in the workplace. 36. When a female employee leaves your workplace, ask yourself: Did I do everything I could to support her in her role? Or am I part of the reason she’s leaving? 37. Don't stay silent on gendered issues surrounding workplace culture simply because you’re a man. Expecting women to advocate for solutions means that you’re part of the problem. 38. Don’t allow the myth of whether a job candidate is a “culture fit” to foster sexist bias in your office that excludes a woman for a leadership position (or any position). 39. When promoting diversity in your office’s personnel, understand that that doesn’t just mean hiring white and/or cis women.
40. Help women carry strollers up and down stairs in areas that are inaccessible. 41. If you’re on a plane with rowdy or crying kids, have some empathy and save your eye rolls. 42. Don’t use the nursing room in your office to make phone calls. (And if your office doesn’t have a nursing room, talk to management about changing that.) 43. Do not suggest, plan, or promote gender reveal parties. 44. Do not ask about what sex the parents are "hoping for."
45. Do not assume having a child means being pregnant—adoption or surrogacy don't make anyone less of a woman, or less of a mother. 46. Don’t assume all women want to be mothers. 47. Don’t assume that because a woman is a mother she cannot handle the workload she originally had before parental leave. 48. Don't dismiss a candidate for a promotion or raise because she has spoken about wanting to become a mother, or has plans for parental leave, because she won’t “come back to work” after giving birth. 49. Talk to other men about consent and sexual assault—the slew of sexual misconduct allegations in the news presents an easy opportunity to open up a conversation.
50. Call out male friends saying disrespectful or inappropriate things about women—even if it’s just in your group text. 51. Don't refer to women as “females.” 52. Listen to abuse and sexual assault survivors whenever they're ready to talk. Believe what they tell you. 53. Don't ever suggest survivors are to blame for their traumatic experience—the aggressor is the only one at fault. 54. Do not assume if they haven't told anyone about an experience with sexual assault, or waited a while to do so, that their story is not true. 55. Do not ever publicly bring up a survivor's experience of assault, unless they've given you express permission to do so. 56. If you know of an accused rapist, share the information you have with any women you know who hang around this person. 57. Support survivors of sexual assault in whatever path they choose—not every survivor wants to bring their case to the authorities. Respect their decision. 58. Never assume the woman you’re talking to has not experienced sexual assault. Assume there’s always a survivor in every room. 59. Never, ever try to pressure a woman into sex. 60. If you’re trying to make small talk with a female stranger in public, and she’s not receptive to it, leave her the fuck alone.
61. Take women's interests and ambitions seriously. 62. Talk to your partner about how you can share the burden of birth control. 63. Don’t resent or dismiss your partner’s career. 64. Make housework equitable—and, in addition to doing the dishes sometimes or making the bed, learn how to deep-clean a kitchen and bathroom properly. 65. Don’t try to compliment your partner by telling her she’s “not like other women”—it’s not flattering when men reveal that their opinion of women, in general, is low. 66. Don’t tell a woman of color of a particular race that she is “the first” of that race you have dated. Similarly, don’t exoticize her.
67. Don’t expect the trans women in your life to explain everything about trans personhood, rights, and issues to you. Do your own research first.
68. Don’t ask a trans woman about her body unless she invites you to. 69. Don’t deadname trans women.
70. Don’t talk about how things are “so much better for women” in the United States than where someone else is from. 71. Don’t ask a woman what their immigration status is unless she has offered it up.
72. If a woman has disclosed to you that she’s undocumented, that is not information to be shared. 73. American feminism has not historically supported women in other countries. Be understanding of that when discussing women’s issues with them. 74. Offer rides to women in your life who can’t get a driver’s license because of their immigration status.
75. Don’t pressure women to introduce you to their family. They may also be undocumented and not able or willing to be personally exposed to someone that has yet to earn their trust. 76. Expecting a woman to be “cool” with smaller criminal offenses could put this woman at the risk of not only the punishment tied to the crime, but also put her at risk of deportation and ultimately at risk of ever re-entering the country legally at a later time. 77. Don’t assume any Latinx woman wants to talk about the latest update coming from the border or surrounding the travel ban or other immigration policy. What may feel like a simple conversation about current events to you could be traumatic for them. 78. First generation, American-born women with immigrant parents and families can also be at risk if their families are mixed-status. All of the same issues that apply to undocumented women can apply to their families if you place them at risk of investigation.
79. Be upfront with sex workers about payment, expectations, and boundaries. 80. Educate yourself about the difference between sex trafficking and sex work—and don’t conflate the two. And don't express generalized pity or concern for sex workers based on their profession—their jobs and decisions are just as valid as yours. 81. Always ask for sex workers’ consent, as you would with anyone else—the boundaries of consensual sex and assault don’t disappear because you’re paying them. 82. Use the term “sex workers” and refer to their work as “sex work,” or “the trade of sex,” rather than "prostitution," or epithets. 83. Read up on FOSTA/SESTA and the ways in which sex workers’ lives are being put in jeopardy because of these bills. Advocate against them. 84. Recognize that advocating for immigration, housing, and LGBTQ rights is part of advocating for sex workers' rights, too. 85. Don’t treat abortion as a fun subject of debate—what may be fodder for an intellectual discussion for you is the stuff of women’s lives.
86. Do not ask trans women invasive questions about medical procedures, or the ongoing status of medical treatments. It’s not your business. 87. Believe it or not, trans women have goals, interests, and hobbies outside of the world of being trans. Ask them about these things. 88. Stop exoticizing trans women. They do not exist purely for your sexual gratification. Likewise, comments on how “passable” or “feminine” a trans woman is or is not is highly offensive.
89. In collaborative assignments, be aware of the division of labor and divide tasks fairly—don’t expect women to organize, manage, or otherwise pull the weight for a project within the partnership or group.
90. Don't share intimate photos—online or otherwise—a woman has sent you without her consent. Read up on the ethical ways to deal with an ex's nudes.
91. Don’t pressure women to have sex without protection.
92. If you are entering a woman’s home (to provide a service) or driving a woman home either personally or as a professional ride-share driver, do not use this moment as an opportunity to hit on her or otherwise press her for more information. You are in a position of power by being able to exploit the knowledge of where she lives. This is harassment. 93. Learn how your partner likes to have sex. To be clear: Do this by asking her.
94. Don’t be the business blowhard who tries to frame your company or product as “empowering for women.” In fact, don’t position anything you profit from as, actually, a form of allyship.
95. Don’t casually ask married women or women with children how they manage their responsibilities between their workplaces and their homes.
96. Don’t idealize your partner sexually, interpersonally, or otherwise—being put on a pedestal is dehumanizing.
97. Learn about bystander intervention and how you might be able to use some of your privileges to intervene in situations where women are unsafe.
98. Don’t make jokes about “getting Me Too’ed,” sigh about PC/cancel culture, or otherwise blithely indicate that things sure were better before some women were more able to speak publicly about sexual assault and misconduct.
99. If you find yourself getting frustrated or upset when someone points out a gaffe or blindspot of yours, step back to listen and self-reflect. If you still don't understand where they're coming from, self-educate: Read feminist literature, feminist theory, or essays and articles about other women's experiences.
100. Don't assume this list doesn't apply to you, a card-carrying good guy. Be thoughtful: Think about what position of privilege you occupy in the world and how that might make life more difficult for women every day.