My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Sometimes, though, I need reminders of my own awesomeness and a dose of encouragement to live that. Here are some ways for us female feminists to do just that with the first five today and the last five tomorrow:
1. Be a better boss.
I’m putting this at the top because we are interdependent, social beings. In order for women to advance professionally, socially, and financially into high-status positions that traditionally have been exclusive to men, we need opportunities. But I have had far too many female bosses who played favorites with their younger male employees, flirting and socializing and promoting, while they turned on the women with criticism and micromanaging. Read Lean In. Bring everybody to the table. Don’t give into the crappy way we’ve been socialized to view other females as threats and male attention as status. Mentor. Be generous. Above all, build a team of men and women, all heard and valued.
2. Don’t stand for men harassing, stalking, taunting, or intruding on your personal space and time.
Just don’t. A lot of men have been socialized to have boundary issues. Don’t get pissed. Just firmly set boundaries and enforce them. If a man on the bus starts moving towards your lap, it’s the right thing to press an elbow into his torso and gently prod him upright. If you can, change seats. It’s not your job to be a stranger’s pillow. If someone is being threatening or aggressively sexual with you, just walk away. Disengage. If they follow you and persist, call the cops. Just don’t put up with it. You don’t have to.
3. Exercise because you want to be stronger, faster, or healthier. Not because you’re worried about how guys will look at your body.
Remember that children’s book, Your Body Belongs to You? Don’t forget that. Ever. Your body is not a product that you must promote to men. It’s what you live in. Do what feels good to you. If you are spending hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours each month on hair appointments, pedis, diets, the latest weight loss fad, waxing, tanning, bronzing, and god knows what else, stop for a second, okay? Assess. Is this you? Or is this what you think someone else wants? If it’s you, go rock it! If it’s not, figure out what is.
4. Eat your cookies.
Look, a lot of men expect us to bake cookies and pies for them. Maybe I’m not a good person, but I want to punch one of my coworkers every time he sees a plate of sweets that a woman brought in for the team. “For me?” He says, because it’s not a question. And then he helps himself to two or three. Even if there are only six on the plate and exactly six people working that day. So I make sure I show up for treats exactly when he does, and I watch those grubby hands of his. It’s a question of who’s the fastest draw. It’s high noon outside the saloon. And you bet that I get my cookies. Every time. So eat your cookies. They are yours. No matter how many men assume they are theirs. And yes, this is a metaphor. But also, it is not.
5. Take up public space without apology.
Manspreading is a thing. I see it every day. Instead of sharing the three-person bus seat with the woman with a cane, a young white man spreads his thighs like a pair of open scissors, tosses his arm along the top of the seat, and looks like a defiant egotist who would sooner watch an old lady break her hip than–gasp!–take up only one seat. If men around you are adopting power positions that limit other people’s use of public spaces, throw down with the best of them. I like to stretch out my legs, prop my elbow on the seat back, and move my bag onto the next seat. It’s not my job to make myself smaller than I actually am just because a man feels entitled to more space than he actually needs. Don’t let anybody push you into a corner. Literal or otherwise.
Check in with me tomorrow morning for the final five!