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National Women’s Equality Day: Understanding Women’s Empowerment

By Ritvi Ranka

With National Women’s Equality Day (8/26) right around the corner, I wanted to dissect one of the biggest events in Women’s History: the passing of the 19th Amendment. On May 21, 1919, the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was passed, which granted the right to vote regardless of one’s gender. Prior to 1920, women were oppressed politically, socially, and economically. Women were considered inferior to men and therefore were heavily discriminated against for job opportunities and the right to exercise their voice in the political environment.

After the 19th amendment was passed, confidence, mannerisms of self-expression, and societal norms changed dramatically in favor of women.

Through a comparison of fashion trends before and after the 1920s, it is evident that women choose to express themselves much differently. The couture era of the 1920s is unmatched by the true extent of cultural change. It began in several ways with the spread of women’s suffrage and right after the end of World War I. The constraining control of women in America was torn apart by the suffrage movement, and they finally found a sense of freedom and the right to feminine self-expression. Known as an icon, a flapper encompassed newfound empowerment in women and society as a whole by defying conventional societal norms. It symbolizes how fashion trends were one of the many different aspects that set women apart during the 1920s.

Flappers were loud and energetic. They would smoke and drink alcohol, something never even commonly done by females before the 1920s. The main goal of these individuals was to change the overall perspective of women in society and attempt to move away from conforming to the norms. They campaigned for this goal by wearing smaller skirts, louder makeup, and higher heels to stand tall to assert their equality with men. They proved that they could do anything a man could do.

In politics, the family, the workplace, and education, brilliant changes have occurred for women, varying from the outcome of the 19th Amendment to being involved in the production of innovative technologies, which in turn all boils down to changes in the roles that women occupied in society. Politics was the most far-reaching shift. Several women felt that taking a significant role in politics was their right and responsibility, as they understood that their daily lives were influenced by political decisions. Regarding a shift in roles, women were also introduced to more opportunities economically. As a result of women receiving the power to vote, and newfound job opportunities, the roles of women began to vary as America approached the 1920s. Although many women remained as the traditional housewives who devoted their lives to their families, the number of women who put themselves and their career first grew rapidly. Following job opportunities, education was another newfound area that women started to pursue.

It is clearly illustrated that these job opportunities symbolize more than just making money for their respective families, but also to be in the public sphere and show this nation that they are capable. The 1920s were just the beginning of women tackling the workforce, politics, and so much more. Since then, we have seen and still see amazing leaders such as Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Amelia Earhart, Lilly Ledbetter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Vice President Kamala Harris. These women have defied all of society’s standards and expectations set for them. Women have always had the potential and mindset to work hard and the women’s suffrage movement certainly had a domino effect that led to social and economic change. And, if it isn’t obvious enough already, this empowerment is majorly a result of mutual unity and support.

Personally, I have noticed that I feel the most empowered when I have women assuring me with whatever I am doing. When I have my closest friends by my side hyping me up and telling me to continue whatever it is that I am passionate about, it makes me feel incredibly grounded. It’s as if they’re my support beams, lifting a great weight off of my chest. Outside of my social circle, I also pay attention to gender equality advocacy online. There are various women-led empowerment groups that post, tweet, and generally reassure their followers that they are girlbosses. Knowing that you are one helps you stay confident and believe in yourself. So think about who and what surrounds you. To my fellow women–are your female friends and colleagues lifting you up? And to everyone–is the media you consume pro-equality?

Clearly, we can see that women’s history has taken large strides in the past hundred years; however, we also need to realize that we still must work toward changes in society for more women’s equality. The fight isn’t over yet. As a woman, I know that we are strong, independent, and have the willpower to do what it takes to improve anything to better our lives. And while pursuing these goals, remember this key message: be your bold and authentic self. Regardless of the obstacles ahead, show off your radiant personality to keep empowering yourself.