Log on to any social media platform today, and you’re bound to be met by a heartwarming sight: the celebration of International Women’s Day.
Your timeline is probably filled with posts highlighting the achievements of women like Emma Watson and Hillary Clinton and important historical figures like Betty Friedan and Amelia Earhart.
If you look closer though, there’s something missing. Sure, we’re highlighting both the achievements and struggles of women — but we often forget to diversify our narratives. We focus on the achievements and struggles of some women rather than all women.
To be more specific, our narratives generally cater to one specific type of woman; white, cis, straight women. We only focus on the struggles and achievements of women who are privileged enough to have their struggles and achievements heard.
For example, the odds that you’ll see posts about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women are slim. The media tends to give little space to Indigenous women and girls to advocate for themselves. You’re also less likely to see discussions surrounding the health and safety of women in the LGBTQ+ community, even though they are statistically more likely to be the victims of violent crimes. This especially includes trans women and queer women of colour, who are disproportionately affected by fatal violence and hate crimes.
What you will see instead are a lot of empty statements about feminism. You’ll see doodled pictures of uteruses with punny captions like “anything you can do I can do bleeding.” You’ll see posts that praise Broad City, photos of Greta Gerwig celebrating her Oscars nomination and photos of Hillary Clinton captioned "I’m still with her." You’ll see a timeline full of posts that praise feminism without advocating for any real, tangible change for the women who need it.
Don’t get me wrong — these conversations are all important. It’s amazing that we’re celebrating women who are excelling in their fields, and it’s incredible that we’re talking about feminism in the mainstream media. However, this is a sterilized, depoliticized and often commodified version of feminism. It’s the kind of feminism that sells t-shirts and gets retweets, but doesn’t achieve anything beyond that. It’s much harder (and much more important) to have the conversations we need to be having.
We need to be talking about the intersectional aspects of feminism that we often wash away in our complacent, Twitter-branded activism. Let’s talk more about protecting trans, queer, and Indigenous women. Let’s shed light on things we can do to incite real change. Let’s donate to or get involved with organizations like London's Anova, a shelter and sexual-health centre which protects vulnerable women in the community.
Most importantly, we should be using our platforms to advocate for the women who need it most. We should be educating one another and looking for opportunities to learn.
If you’re uncomfortable or unsure about how to approach conversations surrounding intersectionality, ask. Seek out the coverage of women’s issues that goes beyond commodified, hollow takes. Read and learn about the Women’s Day protests happening internationally, what brands should be doing differently and how our narratives affect one another. Engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations.
That’s what we really need above all else: change. Those of us who are privileged enough to make our voices heard need to talk and learn about the issues that face women other than ourselves.
We need to use our privilege to amplify marginalized voices. Let's not waste the opportunity.