Unless You’re Doing These Things, You’re Probably Not Marching for Women’s Rights

Sisters, yesterday you gathered to march for women’s rights and today I want to encourage you to keep marching.

I beg you to march away from department stores, to march away from that cheap new pair of jeans or sweater. I ask that you would consider the women who made it:
Women in places like Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and even in L.A
Women who get paid a couple of cents to labor for 16 hour days to make that clothing
Women who are regularly mistreated, abused, and sexually assaulted
Women who are fired if they become pregnant
Women who risk their lives to make your clothing
And despite all of this,
Women who still get up and go into those dangerous factories every day in order to try and provide for themselves and their families.

The clothes you wore yesterday as you marched for women’s rights most likely cost a woman her life, her health, her emotional well being, or her safety.

March away from cheap, sweatshop clothing and march towards companies who prioritize their workers over their profits:
ethical companies
good companies
companies who value people more than products
companies who advocate for better laws and humane standards and fair wages.

I plead that you march away from nail salons, that you think about the women who paint your nails:
Women who are negatively affected by the chemicals and fumes
Women who have miscarriages, cancer, skin ailments and never-ending coughs
Women whose children are born with disabilities and diseases

The same products that are beautifying you are what’s slowly killing her.

March away from carcinogenic, harmful nail salons and march towards eco-friendly ones:
salons that are properly ventilated
salons that use safer paints and removers
salons that require their workers to wear gloves to protect them from skin diseases

As you talk seriously with your boyfriend about marriage or daydream about your someday wedding, I ask that you march away from diamonds sourced in horrific conditions:
By tiny little fingers that have no business working in such harsh, de-humanizing conditions at such a young age ever
By women who have been brutally and systematically raped
Beaten
And killed
As they source that diamond for your “pretty” engagement ring.

March away from blood-stained, conflict diamonds, from those misleadingly “certified” by the Kimberly Process, and march toward lab manufactured or ethical diamonds.

I urge you to march away from the ignorance and apathy regarding horrific practices such as female genital mutilation:
A procedure that has no health benefits for girls or women
A procedure that causes severe bleeding,
Risks and complications at childbirth,
Emotional and physical scarring,
Pain urinating,
Cysts,
And infections
A procedure that affects over 200 million women and girls in over 30 countries,
But one that is hardly ever talked about here.

March away from the ignorance and apathy and march towards education– for yourselves and those who still practice it. March towards awareness, advocacy and international action to end this harmful practice.

Until you do,

your words are empty

your talk is cheap

and your fight is not really for women’s rights,

but for the rights of a small handful of select, privileged, western women.

 

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Why I Won’t Tell You That You’re Beautiful

I was on cloud nine after having just returned from exploring South Sudan: the future site for my start-up company’s first production facility. While there I witnessed what it means to be a refugee. I laughed with precious kids who drank water from the Nile and had no clue when their next meal would be. I ate with men who lost numerous loved ones to war, corruption and poverty. I talked with women who were bright eyed and hopeful for their future; who spent their days helping others less fortunate than them with what little they themselves had. I was simultaneously heartbroken and elated; filled with passion, motivation and sheer excitement at the opportunity to be a small part in empowering these incredible people.

I shared all of that and more in a caption of a photo I posted on instagram, a photo that I was hardly in. A well meaning friend read that, they read my passion, my hopes and dreams, I shared what makes me cry and what makes me get out of bed in the morning, and then they commented saying, “you’re so pretty!”

As I ingested those three little words my heart very quickly descended from cloud nine. When did we become so focused on beauty?

I was not disappointed at the comment, I appreciate being told I’m beautiful just as much as the next girl. I was disappointed at the fact that in light of my hard work, ambition, determination and passion, she felt the most important thing to compliment was my appearance. The appearance that will fade away with the coming of age and of lines.

We live in a world where people get paid because they’re pretty; a world where people become famous because they’re attractive; a world that uses ads to subtly tell little girls that the only way they will ever amount to something truly great is if they’re beautiful. There are multi-billion dollar industries that make their success selling products that will seemingly make us prettier. Smart, intelligent, overqualified people do not get hired because they don’t look a certain way. We are told that the most important thing we have to offer is our appearance.

Because all that really matters is that our facial features are symmetrical, that our skin tone is even, that our eyes are big but not too big; what matters is that we’re curvy and still thin, but not too thin and fit, but not bulky; that we’re not too tall and not too short, that we’re naturally tan in December and that our hair lies perfectly according to whatever is perfect that year. Right?

But most of us would read that and say, well no, that’s not all that matters; after all, true beauty is on the inside.

And perhaps that statement best represents our world’s pathetic obsession with beauty. Don’t you see? The idea that true beauty comes from within is still focused on beauty.

Some people are funny and others aren’t, but those lacking wit don’t lose sleep over it. They don’t take comedy classes or buy certain creams and clothes in hopes of becoming funnier. There are no poetic quotes devoted to reminding us all that hilarity comes from within.

Yet we willingly continue to spends thousands of dollars a year on clothes, creams and programs in hopes of becoming prettier.

Quite frankly, I’ve had enough.

I refuse to allow my appearance to affect my self-perception and I will no longer encourage you to do so. Our value and worth isn’t based on what we look like. Our value and worth is based on who Jesus is and what He did on the cross.

Dear friends, acquaintances, strangers, future children and cherished relatives, I will not tell you that you’re beautiful.

I will tell you that you are passionate. You know, the world is far too full of pretty, yet half-hearted people, infirm of purpose, perfunctorily living, working and existing. I will encourage you to not allow your passion to dwindle, day by irreplaceable day in the dismal haze of the almost but not-yet. Our world needs your fearless pursuit of that which inspires you.

I will tell you that you are kind, praising your ability to speak thoughtful words into the lives of those around you.

I will appreciate your hard-working spirit; your fearless pursuit to accomplish whatever lies before you.

I will applaud your humility; your kind and gentle spirit that willingly and eagerly serves without any thought of praise or reward, so selflessly loving others who have nothing to offer.

I will tell you that you are able; able to speak out for what you believe in, even if that means yours is the only voice. When you feel under qualified, I will remind you that the Lord is in the business of taking stutters and using them to address Pharaohs; He takes shepherd boys and uses them to save nations; He takes dead guys and brings them back to life. He’s a God who calls under-qualified people and qualifies them. Not only is He more than capable of using even you, He delights in it.

I will acknowledge your intelligence, highlighting your drive to learn, your constant wonder, your continual fascination.

I will tell you that you are confident; that you do not allow others to dictate your morale, but instead are aware of who you are and Who’s you are.

I will admire your hopeful spirit; your ability to see the good in every situation and remain optimistic when the horrors of the world crush your heart.

I will esteem your love; how freely you give it out without any regard to a person’s ability to likewise return it. Your ability to love a person, a friend, a spouse, a stranger not in absence of their flaws, but in spite of them.

I will speak of your trustworthiness; admiring your commitment to upholding promises, keeping secrets and avoiding gossip.

I will tell you that you are generous; complimenting your willingness to give freely of yourself, your time and your money.

These characteristics will not disappear when you grow old, when your skin sags and your fitness fades. I will tell you all of this and so much more, but I will not tell you that you’re beautiful.

When we truly value such characteristics as these as much, or even more, than we value beauty, our world may be a happier, richer, fuller, more interesting place. We might even see racism evaporate, discrimination perish and shallowness cease.