Brave, Brilliant, Bold
There are some challenges all women face – the fact that women earn somewhere between 78 to 82 cents for every dollar men earn, or the fact that women of all colors and ethnicities may experience sexual harassment at work. And there are many things women uniquely experience based on intersecting identities – the fact that Hispanic women earn 54 cents for every dollar men earn, that Muslim women wearing a head scarf are approached by strange men telling them they “don’t have to cover yourself,” or the fact that the man/woman binary excludes somebody who is queer, trans or a number of other identities, just to name a few.
As the key note speaker of UVM’s Women’s Summit: Brave Brilliant Bold, Dr. Guy-Sheftall focused on these intersectionalities, noting that the majority of systems of oppression are interlocking. Along with the other presenters, stories and data were shared illuminating many of the various challenges women still face, along with some solutions.
Take-aways from the day, whether you carry out your feminist advocacy with a small “a” or a big “A”:
- Remember that being a feminist requires a broad, inclusive lens. Acknowledge these differences. The more dialogue and learning the better – the landscape is always evolving. Remember to listen to other feminists and make space for those whose identities are silenced.
- Foster relationships with women and people from diverse identities, and get to know them and their experiences as a person.
- Look for micro-aggressions in your daily speech patterns – challenge yourself to stop using “hey guys” as this doesn’t reflect women. Challenge yourself to stop calling women “girls.” This dismisses women. Challenge yourself to recognize that the term woman is also not inclusive (myself included – see above paragraph for evidence I am still working on finding the language that matches my understanding of fluid gender identities and expressions).
- If you are a person in power, be a champion for an equitable workplace. Start with transparent wage information to create pay equity. Don’t just mentor or coach women, but SPONSOR them – talk about them, give them tools and lift them up. Bring a variety of women into the circles of power. Continue to LEARN how to use your position for improving equality.
- Run for office.
- Amplify women’s voices – when a woman makes a key point restate it, give her credit, and reinforce it (presenter Melissa Murray)
- REPRESENT COURAGE. The time to start doing this work is now. Don’t stand by as you see something that doesn’t pass your ideological sniff test. Find your voice and speak up. Share your successes. And reflect on your failures with your inner circle so you can do it better next time.
The above take-aways are a compilation from all of the speakers at UVM’s Women’s Summit: Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant, Wendy Koenig, JD, Dr. Agigail McGowan, Melissa Murray, Dr. Angela Batista, Kate Jerman, MPH, Dr. David Nestor, and Nevien Shaabneh.