Lawson: Tackle 2015 blunders in 2016

Angelica Lawson

As we begin 2016, I think it is only appropriate to take a look back on 2015 and identify what we can strive to work on as we focus on the new year.

2015 brought many pop culture phenomenons as well as undeniable tragedies we won’t soon forget. The world met Caitlyn Jenner in June and Adele graced the world with her incredible voice on what could be her final album, “25”. The world was also devastated by the terrorist attacks on Paris in November and later by the terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

A lot happened during the past 365 days, and some of the events were out of public control. No one could have predicted any of the acts of terror inflicted on the world, both at home and abroad. The presidential campaign process at its current standing couldn’t have been foreseen. However, there are plenty of things that the public can do to ensure we don’t repeat history and make 2016 one for the books, especially when it comes to female empowerment.

Something I would like to first address is Caitlin Jenner, who can also be identified as former Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner. Caitlin Jenner was named Woman of the Year and received the Arthur Ashe award for courage from the ESPYs. Both of these honors were awarded to Jenner as she made her debut as a transgender women. 

As a disclaimer, the following comments about Jenner have nothing to do with her being transgendered. It is about how she can use her status to empower and support women both inside and outside of the transgender community.

Jenner has made great strides representing the trans community, but my hope for her in 2016 is that she expands her platform further to help women, both in and outside of the transgender community, since she now identifies as a female. It would be great if she could stand for female equality instead of heavily focusing on her wardrobe and beauty regimen.

Jenner has been afforded a great advantage through her olympic and reality TV roots. Because of this instant celebrity status, she should adapt her platform to bring attention to discriminations that have plagued women and those in the transgender community for years.

Instead of demeaning the suffrage that woman have gone through by stating that the hardest thing about being a woman is picking out what to wear, how about pointing out the wage gap, or “slut shaming”and victim blaming, job discrimination and the numerous other things that woman have to deal with every day.

By changing her platform, Jenner can begin to identify with the female struggle and maybe put out different, more positive images of women, and no longer buy in to the stereotypes that women are things that get dolled up and dressed.

In other news, the Free the Nipple Campaign made headlines. Women have been at a disadvantage when it comes to breastfeeding in public, and the campaign gained momentum in trying to de-stigmatize said action. The Free the Nipple Campaign is focused on gender equality through the exposure of nipples.

Free the nipple is more than about breaking down the sexual bias that surrounds women’s breasts, but it is also about breastfeeding in public. This is due to the fact that it is illegal for women to be topless in 35 states, and that includes breastfeeding in public.

This change is not going to happen overnight for obvious reasons, but by creating body positive images rather than shameful ones we could actually take positive steps to create body equality. I mean, in Disney’s “Aladdin,” Aladdin, Genie and Abu are pictured topless but are missing their nipples. So what kind of message are we sending to children? This is an example of the kind of message that perpetuates outdated ideals, which is an umbrella issue 2016 should continue to tackle. 

Planned Parenthood also had a rocky 2015. It fell victim to false accusations of illegal abortions and subsequently entered into a de-funding cycle. While several states did independent investigations and there was no truth found in the accusations, some states did choose to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

How can Planned Parenthood and the public rebound in 2016 to ensure that they are around for future generations? The public needs to focus on the facts, whether or not they like the organization. The truth is the truth, and Planned Parenthood does great work. It provides sex education, birth control, pregnancy tests and breast exams. The part of the organization that has taken the brunt of the negative argument is that it performs abortions, but abortions only account for 3 percent of its funding.

Planned Parenthood needs to focus on putting out the truth to put down its naysayers one accusation at a time. It should also focus more on promoting its annual reports so that its financial breakdowns are publicized and its spending is crystal clear.

The future is bright for 2016, and there are multiple ways that we can improve from 2015. The areas that I named are just the tip of the ice berg. There has to be a level of commitment from all of the people involved. Changing stereotypes and rebounding business are just a few of the challenges that should be addressed in 2016.