As a member of Gen Z, I’m inclined to believe that global change will be made by my generation and those that come after. But what if, in fact, they are already being made by those who came before me, and I am just meant to continue and widen their path? The presence of strong women in today’s media inspires people, regardless of their gender or nationality, to make overdue changes. With strong minds leading the charge, we can anticipate a better future.
Four years ago, we saw the first female presidential candidate, who graced the debate stage with as much poise as her male counterparts. Hilary Clinton didn’t win the election, but she showed women that they have a place in the political world and can run just as fast in any race. Fast forward to today, and one has continued inspiration in the form of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman that personified the idea of feminism. A strong advocate of women’s rights, Bader Ginsburg’s embodiment of power and determination inspires the next generation of women and girls through her empty seat. When looking at pictures or art, her iconic gaze dares the viewer to fight as hard as she did. The three remaining positions in the Supreme Court held by women represent the evolution of obtaining equal rights, and although the other female justices’ work isn’t as well known, their very seats speak to RBG’s dedication to the fight.
Think about your Instagram account for a minute. How often do the posts in your feed reference empowerment? In addition to the horror stories we hear of sexual workplace politics, there are uplifting ones as well. Whether it’s about casting a vote in the upcoming election, a strong female celebrities’ post or even basic, Simply Southern quotes in curly font about where a woman gets her strength, they all empower. Unfortunately, we often flick past them, occasionally liking a post that would come back to haunt us if we didn't. In doing this, we forget the struggles that made the post possible in the first place. These ideas weren’t as readily available to previous generations, and the sense of hope and upliftment they provide shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Regardless of powerful females cementing their achievements in our history textbooks, women have experienced sexual misconduct in countless professional fields. Many have felt the need to make their stories known through the #MeToo movement. Stories are commonly told by women in media and politics, their experiences blowing up Twitter and Instagram feeds daily (the most publicized cases in recent years being those of Harvey Weinstein and Brett Kavanaugh). In these cases, the woman is victimized and made to feel weaker than a man, which is then emphasized in the media. However, while the stigma that a woman is not as capable as a man has been proven false time and time again, modern day statistics on gender pay-gap and sheer numbers of harassment cases still provoke disparaging thoughts: When will women be taken seriously? Is the #MeToo movement just another phase to be drowned out by a man’s voice? How many times must we prove our capabilities before we’re treated with an equal level of respect? These voices can be minimizing, especially to younger generations who feel that they don’t yet harness enough power to make individual change.
A mistake commonly made by young people today is that we think we’re all predestined to be changemakers, as though we were bred to make the world a better place. Perhaps this is because our generation was raised with constant praise and made to think that whatever we did was enough. Maybe this has given us a mentality that all of us are exceptionally powerful individuals going out to make great change, or maybe this stigma comes from real world pressures on young people to change the system entirely on their own. The fact is, if we were to zoom out and look at the bigger picture, we would see that change is already happening and has been for decades.
In terms of progress, we’re not starting from scratch. Change is and has already been taking place. Judging by the lack of forward movement made in the campaign for women’s equality, however, we’ll still have to work just as hard as our predecessors. Like those before us, it’s our job to society and to those who have already made due change, as the up-and-coming generation, to make better what has been given to us and to inspire those who will follow.
Art by Naomi Desai