If you could go back in time and speak with suffragettes and women’s rights activists in the early 1900s, there would be a million developments to share with them. You might excitedly declare, “We make up half the work force!” or “We have women in Congress, and a few of them have run for president!”
These victories would feel momentous to those women, who before 1919 didn’t even have the right to vote. You might also want to show them how much technology and healthcare have advanced, making childbirth much safer, or you might tell them how gender roles and standards have changed; the world is more accepting of all femme-facing and nonbinary people.
History in the Making
Just more than 100 years ago, the world looked very different for women and femmes. In 1911, more than one million people celebrated the first International Women’s Day, (IWD), yet women still couldn’t vote in most countries. Just a week after the first IWD, the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Fire killed 146 workers, most of them young women and immigrants. The disaster brought more attention to women and worker’s rights, and the movement continued fighting for equality.
While suffragettes won the right to vote in 1919, it would be years before the 1965 Voting Rights Act protected black women’s right to vote. In the interim, women’s rights activists continued their fight, and International Women’s Day continued to gain momentum. In 1975, the United Nations celebrated the day for the first time, and the first themed celebration was held in 1996, called “Celebrating the past, planning for the future.”
This year, the International Women’s Day theme is a continuation of the struggle and pain of more than a century of activism, called “Each for Equal.” IWD is pushing for more equality in the workplace, particularly for equal pay. Advancements have been made in the last century, so there’s much you could celebrate with the suffragettes—but there’s still a long way to go.
One of the best elements of International Women’s Day is the encouragement to celebrate individually, and IWD.com encourages people and groups to honor the theme and day in a way that feels best to them, since the holiday belongs to no particular organization.
One of the many areas of inequality Lora DiCarlo cares about is eliminating sexual stigma, and destigmatizing women’s sexuality. A lack of women’s sexual empowerment affects all genders, but particularly women and femmes. In an equitable society, sexual empowerment allows for productive conversations about consent, allows for sex education to go beyond abstinence-only and gives power and ownership back to women and their bodies.
In the U.S., only 13 states require sex education to be medically accurate. This leaves teens and students to pick up their sex education from other sources like friends or the internet—not always reliable or positive places for information.
The effect is quantifiable; in 2016, the United States had higher rates of STDs and teen pregnancy than most other developed countries. Many students are told abstinence is the best way to prevent these issues, particularly in religious parts of the country that hold sex is bad, immoral, or at the very least should be confined to husbands and wives.
A lack of sex education sets students up for failure in many ways, including limiting their ability to talk about consent in an empowered way. Luckily, there are other resources that give people the tools they need to form consensual relationships and ensure sex is a positive experience, but students and adults both deserve to have these conversations publicly and without fear of judgement.
Education and consent conversations empower women and femmes, giving them control and power over their own bodies. In a society that tells people what they can or can’t do with their bodies during pregnancy, restricting access to important healthcare services like abortion and birth control, power is taken away.
Apart from healthcare needs, pleasure is just as important. Sexual stigma makes it difficult to explain needs to a partner, but with just six percent of women experiencing vaginal orgasms, we need to be able to discuss sex on both emotional and practical levels. Sex shouldn’t be just “locker room talk,” acceptable for only one of the genders.
How to Help As A Woman or Femme
As a woman or femme-facing person, there are many ways to take back power and celebrate International Women’s Day. If you choose, you can post a photo using the #EachForEqual hashtag, keeping in mind the theme can mean many things to many people. You can have important conversations with partners, or write letters advocating for sexual and reproductive freedom to your representatives. Most importantly, you can stake a claim on your own power and body, making a commitment to yourself to care for your body and give it what it needs and craves, particularly in the bedroom.
Lora DiCarlo is honored to assist you in that experience. Osé allows you to experience blended orgams focusing on both the G-spot and clitoris, and emulates human touch. For femmes who have never experienced sex that focuses on more than just penetration, it can be life-changing.
How To Help As an Ally
Destigmatizing women's sexuality isn’t only a job for femmes. Men and masculine-facing allies have a role to play in the fight. Listen when your feminine friends speak about issues and struggles they face daily. Ask about their desires and needs in the bedroom. The Osé, created by a brand that supports sexual empowerment, can be a great gift or introduction in your personal sex life. It communicates that you care deeply about your partner’s needs and pleasure.
This International Women’s Day, it is truly each for equal. Each one of us, femme or not, has a role to play in ensuring a more equitable society. The patriarchy hurts all of us, and dismantling it, including in the service of women’s sexual empowerment, will serve and benefit every community member.
Sometimes, the fight happens on the streets, and sometimes it happens more quietly, in the bedroom with partners or with ourselves. No matter where you choose to duke it out, know that your actions and words matter. Equity deserves representation everywhere, and must saturate intimate spaces as well as public policy and the news cycle. When we feel empowered even in our private, personal spaces, we may feel closer to an equitable society than ever before.