It’s International Women’s Day. Hurrah! If you’re reading this you probably don’t hate women. You probably think they should get paid the same as a man for doing an equivalent job. You probably think they shouldn’t be beaten by their partners for being ‘disobedient’. And you might even have gone a bit deeper: asking questions like, why is it that women are the ones that normally stay home and look after the children?
All good things to think about.
Here are some other things to think about: the violence faced by those who are transgender. The fact that women are far more likely to live in poverty. The way feminist spaces marginalise the disabled.
There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to social justice. You probably already know about them. There’s the concept of privilege and the way race, sex, sexuality, gender and class intersect with each other to create different types of prejudice and privilege.
How can I help people?
You can get pretty deep into social justice theory, there’s a lot to think about, and if that interests you I’d encourage you to follow it up. But what if you just want to make a difference, however small? You want to just take action and do something to help people because you’re so filled with rage about how human beings are treated?
Here are some ideas of how to help other people, ranging from the relatively easy to the pretty difficult. The links are mostly aimed at people in the UK, as that’s where I’m based, but the actual ideas apply to anyone.
- Read a book from an author of a different gender, sexuality, race than you normally read. Here’s a starting point if you like sci-fi and fantasy. Yes, reading is essential to developing empathy with people from different backgrounds. Plus, you’re helping to make a point about what authors we, as a society, want to support.
- Volunteer. Volunteering can range from anything to an hour in a soup-kitchen to a committed unpaid skilled position in a non-profit organisation. You can help almost anyone, from women to children to veterans to immigrants to those struggling with poverty or disabilities.
- Donate money to a charity whose causes you support. I do recommend doing some research into your charity first. The smaller and more local the charity, the more direct impact on your community you will have. However, the bigger charities have much more leverage and can put more pressure on governments to clean up their act. In the long run, they can (probably) achieve more systematic changes. However, big charities are also prone to many of the same issues that plague big corporations so… invest your donation wisely.
- Make friends with your neighbours. You’d be amazed at how important community is, and how much we suck at looking after the people nearest to us. Bonus: it doesn’t just help other people, it means you have a support network.
- Talk to some of your friends. How are they doing? Are they struggling with anything? Can you help? Look particularly at: women who have just had a baby, families coping with sickness, women on their own, and older women. Some ideas of things you can do: cook them dinner, babysit, sit and listen, give them a place to go. Sometimes, all we need from a friend is for them to do our laundry.
- Review where the food and clothing you purchase regularly comes from. Is it fair-trade? Are you contributing to poverty and slavery in other countries? Adjust your shopping accordingly. This obviously depends a lot on your own income levels. Do what you can, with what you have.
- Research reproductive justice. Think through your beliefs about: access to abortion, the way society treats young mothers, adoption, and class. Read lots! If you’re in the USA, consider becoming an escort outside an abortion clinic, in order to protect women from the pro-lifers.
- Do you work in a traditionally male-dominated field? Examples are: programming, science, politics, etc. How can you encourage a better gender balance? Perhaps you could volunteer to tutor young girls? Perhaps you can highlight notable female role-models? If you’re in a position where you hire/fire employees, look carefully at your track record. If you’re in a female-dominated field, do the same in reverse.
- Split the housework fifty-fifty unless there is a really really good reason not to. Got a son? Teach him to clean and cook. Seriously.
- If you run any kind of event or community space, go out of your way to welcome those from different backgrounds. Check how accessible you are. Approach your organisation from the perspective of someone who is non-white, an immigrant, disabled, or poor. What can you improve?
There are, of course, a lot more things we can all do but this is a starting point. What do you do to help people? All ideas welcome!