What do these words mean to you?
While I have not been catcalled to the severity that some of the women participating in the #CatCallsofNYC, I have experienced the effects of this type of street harassment. My mother always told me to walk a little faster and to stay alert when passing by groups of men when I am alone or with friends. She told me to ignore them if they said anything to me. Of course I listened to what she said, but thought to myself “This could never happen to me.” I was wrong. As a sophomore in high school, I didn’t have my license yet and had to walk home from school. My school day ended earlier than most because of my scheduling and I began my trek home from school, a very simple eight minute walk in my safe neighborhood, where I had spend my entire life. Two minutes away from my home, a work truck passes by me, slows down and then men start whistling, trying to get my attention. I immediately start to speed walk home, and once I get there I lock the door behind me. I was scared. I started to examine myself to see what had prompted their catcalls. I had just spent seven hours at school, waking up at 6AM, and I certainly did not look attractive. I was wearing boots, leggings, and a puffy jacket that hid myself away. When I walk alone now, I am more aware of my surroundings then ever before because I know a mere whistle from an unknown man could lead to something much more drastic. I added “Catcalls” into ABCs of Girl Power because it is something most women will experience in their lifetime and it sits on the inequality of men and women. Why do men feel as though they have the authority to shout unwanted comments to innocent women on the street? Gender inequality is built into the foundations of societies across the world, teaching men that women are subordinate. This is what the feminist movement is fighting. They are bringing into light the fundamental rights women do not have, and trying to change the way our communities are structured. I stand behind these women and men fighting for change, will you?
Growing up I never heard this word. In school, gender equality, gender discrimination, or women’s rights past the 19th Amendment were never mentioned. I find myself thinking, how did I learn about this movement, and why was I never taught about it? Of course, in the early 2000s, times were different and feminism wasn’t in the curriculum, but as a rising teacher I wonder if it will be in my curriculum. Feminists advocate for the equality of women’s and men’s rights and opportunities. This is something that should be in the curriculum of schools across the world, but with traditional beliefs, censorship, and lack of freedom of speech, this is not possible. In America, it is and is something that should have been implemented a long time ago. Is it fair to let a little girl grow up unaware that she will have to fight harder and longer than her male peers for college acceptances, jobs, or even recognition? Is it fair to let little boys grow up unaware that their sister, cousin, or mom will be subject to more harassment and maltreatment because fo their sex? Simply teaching young students about the feminist movement and its core beliefs can change the future in a million unknown ways. People will be more aware of their actions, and will be able to recognize if they are in a privileged situation. Children have a right to know what is going on in our world, and what responsibilities will be passed down to their generation: the feminist movement is one of them. We have the responsibility of fighting for equality for ourselves, the generations that come after us, and to educate the youth on what equality is in all aspects of life. ABCs of Girl Power contains only some of the thousands of words that aren’t taught to students in the feminist view , and acts as a starting point to teach young women and men, girls and boys, about the world that a 21st century female faces.
Leadership and empowerment go hand in hand. While there may be thousands of female leaders across the world, many of them do not receive the respect they deserve, often have to fight harder than male leaders, and are constantly being questioned for their choices. Somewhere we can see a typical definition of leadership is in the United States Government, and how women make up Congress and the House of Representatives. The past 2018 election of Donald Trump actually showed a record breaking number of women holding House and Senate seats. This number being 102, which is only 23.5 percent of the 435 seats in total. This may come as a shock, as it certainly did for me. The politicians who hold these seats play a part in deciding on laws, grant money, and overseeing how this Country is run. According to Trading Economics, in 2016 women made up 50.52 % of the United States population, and we had to depend on 102 women to fight for our rights. Female leadership in our country is so important not only because it will lead to more equality for the people, it shows them that equality is possible. 150 years ago women wouldn’t have been able to imagine having representation in the House or Senate, they were still fighting for their right to vote for their representation. Little girls couldn’t dream of being the first female president because that idea was so absurd, no one would have imagined it possible. As an education major, I spend a lot of time around young children babysitting, tutoring, observing in classrooms, or playing with my younger cousins. I often ask these children what they want to be when they grow up. The third grade girl I babysit proudly answers she wants to be the first girl president, and starts to roll off facts about Hillary Clinton. I loved to see how empowered she felt when talking about the female leaders she aspires to be one day. This past month she ran for student council president of her grade, and she won. Leadership is all around us, inspiring those to do good deeds and to make change. When you can identify and relate to your leader it makes all the difference. Women are fighting everyday for their right to lead, to have a voice, and to make their communities an equal place for all to live.
In recent years, Body Positivity has become a controversial term, with many people giving it a concrete definition that all who call themselves “body positive” must abide by. In reality, this term is flexible and is able to be defined by each and every person who claims it. I included this term in ABCs of Girl Power because as you dive further into its meaning and story it brings to light how important female empowerment and women supporting women is. Connie Sobczak is the founder and executive director of the organization, The Body Positive created this organization because she wanted people to change how people viewed themselves as a woman, noting the extreme societal pressures girls and women face today. Connie struggled with an eating disorder growing up because of her poor body image, and lost her sister at 39 years old to that same eating disorder. At that time, Connie had just given birth to a baby girl and was taunted with the task of raising a female in such a cruel society. Her goal was to raise her little girl to grow up to love herself and her body. Connie says that the true definition of Body Positivity is up to you. She wants you to be happy with your body, to love every part of yourself, and to fight the ridiculous standards society puts on women. Body Positivity has also proved to be economically beneficial for many companies. Aerie, American Eagle’s lounge wear and intimates store began its AerieReal campaign in 2014 where they started to use models of all body types, keeping in all of their features. The images of these models are completely untouched and represent the bodies of REAL women. Aerie also began to include models with disabilities to represent an even wider range of women. They keep uplifting messages covering the mirrors in the dressing room that can always make you smile. They employ women who share the same beliefs and are so welcoming in the stores. In comparison, Victoria’s Secret has been struggling in sales, as the message they are sending to the public are not resonating with many women. While their models are beautiful, their bodies only represent a small portion of society and if VS chose to have more body types represent their apparel, I am sure their sales would increase. Overall, a common theme among feminists is self-love, and whether or not you include this in your definition of body positivity, it is important to remember that this self-love should be used to join all women together in the fight for equal rights.
There is no word for X, just the symbol itself. While researching for a word to fill this page, I could not find any. I began to stare at the letter, hoping I would remember a powerful word that could fit into ABCs of Girl Power perfectly. None came. I did however, notice its unique but simple shape, and realized how this letter can represent my book as a whole. The lines crossing over each-other represent the interconnectedness of all 25 words (not including itself) in the book. Each word, which represents a specific issue, topic, act, term, historical figure, or modern figure could not have happened without the others. Without the early waves of Feminism, we as women may still be confined to the home, unable to cast our vote. Margaret Hamilton may not have received the opportunity to attend MIT, and lead NASA on bringing humanity to the moon. Leymah Gbowee, Marie Curie, Tawakkol Karman, and Malala Yousafazai may not have been able to make the achievements they have, or been able to contribute and encourage the voices of activism amongst women. The quality of empowerment, pushes women to fight for the Equality of their rights, body, vote, and pay. Powerful women around the world have come in contact with the harsh realities (cat calls, Kitchen/mensuration jokes, Strength of the patriarchy) of being a woman. Nobody can escape these realities, and the laws of some countries confine their women to them. For the women around the world who have the right to their voice, Use it. Use it for the women who have no say in their life. Use it for your little sister, who is oblivious to the fact that one day she may not be able to get an abortion because a 75 year old white man said she couldn’t. Use it for your mother, who still believes that the patriarchy is a tradition, and is scared of change. Use your voice for yourself. You are the owner of your body, you have the right to vote for who will represent you, and you are the woman who can one day change the world. X teaches us how we are all in this together, men and women, and how we have to use our voices to educate others, fight for equality, and bring about change in a world so used to tradition.