March 8, 2021

Doing More to Celebrate Women

What does it mean to celebrate women? As with many holidays and events that commemorate the accomplishments of an otherwise unsung peoples, International Women’s Day can feel, at times, like an empty celebration. While photos and quotes populate our Instagram feeds and inboxes in the early days of March, we quickly return in April to the persistent issues of pay inequity, work-life balance, and sexual harassment, to name a few.

Despite this pattern, days like International Women’s Day are crucial in allowing us to intentionally reflect on our actions and the society we want to create. To dismantle the weeded quagmires of systemic inequity, we must first look at how we interact with and treat women in our day-to-day lives. This is not the work of men or women exclusively; instead, we all must work together to champion these causes. And though I use the word “women” in this piece, I remind us all that gender is not a binary, but rather a nuanced, personal, and ever-evolving construct. While we focus on the female here, I invite us to consider how we may do more to support all of the gender identities that exist in our communities.

In our everyday lives, both personally and professionally, there are a multitude of opportunities for us to examine microaggressions experienced by women. Celebrating and supporting women means trying not to find flaws in the women who “have it all,” because we have been trained to believe that women can be intelligent, or beautiful, or accomplished, or good parents–but not all of the above. It means never smart-shaming a woman because the fact that she knows more than you makes you uncomfortable. Supporting women means giving women the latitude, freedom, and right to take up space–as much space as they want. Supporting the feminine means deleting terms like “hard” and “soft” science from our vocabularies as though one (not-coincidentally, the one more often practiced by women) is inferior to the other. It means examining our lexicon and our behaviors for those words, phrases, and actions that quietly prioritize the male experience over all others. But above all else, celebrating women means recognizing and respecting women in all their forms and all their preferred presentations–there is no one right way to be a woman.

In the zoo and aquarium world, we are marvelously fortunate to benefit from some of the most brilliant, creative, beautiful, funny, introspective, charismatic, ambitious, benevolent, adaptable, fierce, knowledgeable, accomplished, kind, and empathic women in the world. This International Women’s Day, we hope that you will join us in not only celebrating women, but in reflecting on the myriad of ways in which we can honor and uphold the experiences and talents of women every day of each year for generations to come.

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