2017 was quite a year.
Personally, I felt the progress – I was happy to see the first Federal budget with gender-based analysis. I was thrilled to witness the first meeting of 140+ women in The Gender Equality Network Canada/Réseau d’égalité des genres Canada, which is advancing gender equality and building inclusive, intersectional leadership. I was glad that a worldwide conversation had finally started about sexual assault, harassment, believability, and workplace conduct through the reignited #MeToo movement.
I also recognize my privilege as a white, cisgender, able-bodied person, and I know that means I likely felt this progress much more than others.
While I aim to be hopeful when a new year begins, I also want to be honest about where I’m at and where the country is at: I worry about how to ensure all women in Canada reach gender equality at the same time (throughout history white cisgender women have experienced gains before all other women, and that has to change). And I, like one-third of all Canadians, also worry about backsliding and losing progress we’ve already made.
So how am I personally planning to press forward with the energy, resiliency, and visibility needed to make real change for women and girls in Canada this year?
I’m going to act like a kid again.
The idea first crossed my mind when the Foundation ran its #GirlPowered campaign. The collective wisdom of these girls, which flooded in by the thousands, made me want to get back in touch with my inner girl to see what wisdom she might bring me. I’m now planning to:
- Recapture the excitement of victory sharing: Remember when you were young and you accomplished something new and notable? Whether you naturally tended toward being more shy or more vocal, chances are you felt a deep inner sense of satisfaction and perhaps even an impulse to make sure it didn’t go unnoticed. As an adult, stating your victories can easily be mistaken for gloating. But when you share your own victories and ask others about theirs, you build a collective understanding of what’s possible. So this year, I’m making an extra effort to keep my eyes, ears, and mouth open to let out my own victories and let in others’ victories. Whether you feel 2017 went mostly right or mostly wrong for you, you likely had something to be proud of. And if you don’t want to shout your victories from the rooftops, you can recount them alone (I actually keep a private Google doc to remind me of how far I’ve come) or with someone who is a safe person to you (like a friend or family member). The idea of making it an annual tradition to look forward to can be really uplifting!
- Rediscover the joy of unstructured play time: Unstructured play time is a concept that gets lost after childhood. And it’s important to note some may not have been afforded the experience of unstructured play at all: Those who have experienced trauma or had to deal with adult issues and responsibilities at a young age may especially benefit from integrating child-like play into adulthood. By definition, play is an activity that has little clear immediate function (that’s what separates it from work or education). As an adult, responsibilities come knocking. And some have more responsibilities and fewer supports in place to deal with them than others. I’m starting by shifting my thinking about play: Instead of seeing it as being expendable, I’m aiming to see it as a high-priority part of my life.
- Re-read the entire #GirlPowered gallery for inspiration: This one gets me every time. Share your favourite one on your social media accounts to kick off the new year!
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the new year is that we all have an incredible chance to make 2018 the best year yet for women and girls in Canada. To start it off strong, you can sign up for our e-newsletter and donate to invest in gender equality.
As you enter 2018, let the quest for intersectional gender equality be your north star. You can start by noticing and challenging systemic sexism and racism in the spheres you’re in. It’s so engrained in our culture that noticing it is half the battle. Some simple ways to take action? Call out “locker room talk” when you hear it at work, at school, at the gym, wherever you might be; practice bystander intervention in public when it’s safe to do so; and be an ally. Your inner girl will be proud of you for growing up to be a woman who challenges inequality!