On January 20th, 2018, I marched through the streets of Philadelphia with thousands of women, girls, men, boys, and children to protest the continued injustices that women face in society. Thousands more marched in cities throughout the country as people of all backgrounds, races, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and religions came together as one. We marched to protest injustice and bigotry. We marched to let the world know that time is up. We marched to show that we ain’t playing, and neither am I.
My name is Bess Neiblum, and I am a junior at Henderson High School. As a child, I was taught that women were strong, powerful, and intelligent and that they could do anything a man could and more. My parents encouraged me to ask questions, to challenge the norm, and to speak up for myself. And so, as I grew older and experience the sexism that seems to perpetually exist beneath the surface of all aspects of my life, I decided that I would not stay silent. In the past few years, I have become a fierce advocate for women’s rights and have witnessed the birth of an inspiring movement.
For too long have women’s voices been silenced, forced into the background behind “more important” issues. For too long have women felt ashamed to come forward after experiencing sexual assault and been told that they must have been the problem, that they are somehow responsible. And for too long have the simple facts been ignored: women receive less than men for the same work, and the government is trying to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.
But we have begun to witness a change. Women are stepping forward to share their stories and most recently, a powerful movement has begun to hold men accountable for sexual assault and to take action against them. Some male celebrities and TV hosts have taken pay cuts to protest their female coworkers’ lower pay.
Women’s voices matter, and they make a difference. And as we continue to speak up and to fight for change, we want, we need, our words to be taken to heart. The 21st century has already seen monumental change and will hopefully see even more, but that cannot happen if women’s stories are not taken seriously. We know what we deserve, and we are not playing.
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