2015 has been full of highs and lows. This was the year of marriage equality across all 50 states, Viola Davis was the first black woman to win an Emmy in her category, and it was the birth year of the adorable HRH Princess Charlotte. Despite these positive things, we can all agree that 2015 shone a light on the things about the world that need to change. This year was a big awakening about all of the messed up stuff that we still need to fix about our political system, culture, and economy. There are a bunch of systems in place that need… improving? Of course, progress happens over time and nothing of consequence changes overnight (Beyonce wasn’t built in a day, after all), but there are still things that can be incrementally changed starting – mm, right about now feels like a good time, don’t you think?
It’s not like we should all be contentedly disgruntled about the state of our world. There are actionable things we can all do to change our environment locally as well as garner attention to larger progressive movements. Life is long and change takes time, so beyond hashtag activism, the start of a new year is the perfect time to find a cause that you’re passionate about and really rally behind it. Nowhere is a perfect utopia and honestly, who would want to live in a pristine paradise? Screw it if it makes me sound like hippie trash, but we can all hope for a better Earth, right?
Here are 15 things that need to start changing in 2016.
1) More gun control, less mass shootings.
ICYMI, there have been more mass shootings in 2015 than there have been calendar years. If the fact that birth control and drivers licenses are more regulated than access to military grade fire arms somehow doesn’t make your blood boil, I don’t know what to tell you. There was a time in which mass shootings were shocking, now it just seems like an average daily news item and that’s depressing af.
2) Politics with less sensationalism.
Can everyone please stop shouting and being awful like they’re competing to be the most obnoxious person with the most amount of power so that I can *really* hear what you believe in so that I can be a responsible voter? Thanks. Sheesh.
3) Not indicting corrupt police officers in racially biased crimes against black people.
In a series of mysterious and f-cked up events after a minor traffic violation, Sandra Bland wound up dead in a holding cell. Allegedly a suicide, there are a lot of shady details surrounding her death, and now there will be no further investigation on the matter, never mind convicting anyone or holding them responsible for her death. No indictment. Nothing. The rate at which black people are targeted by law enforcement and then devalued in the mainstream news is shocking and horrifying.
4) No adequate representation of POC, queer, and trans characters in mainstream media.
There have been many strides being made in the way of representation (shout out to Quantico and How To Get Away With Murder for being awesome), but we still have a long way to go. Viola Davis said in her Emmy’s acceptance speech that, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” and she’s right.
5) The terrible paid maternity leave offered in the USA.
The United States is the only developed nation that does not give mothers paid maternity leave. You can’t have it all when there’s an actual system in place that prevents you from fully investing both your career and family. Sure, motherhood may be a long way away for most of us, but progress takes time and this policy is hurting our friends and loved ones. And like I said, change takes time, so let’s get started now.
6) Bullshit school dress codes.
Shoulders are scandalous and sexist dress code policies prioritize our male peers’ distraction-free learning environment over our bodily autonomy and comfort during hot weather. Duh, don’t wear a bikini top to homeroom, but shorts when it’s 95 degrees? That sounds doable. Beyond that, dress codes can effect everything from hair to religious garments and that’s not okay.
7) Planned parenthood not being fully funded.
The Senate defunded Planned Parenthood like women’s health was a debate as to whether or not we should receive treatment for our reproductive needs (and cancer screenings! hello!) despite our health insurance coverage and socioeconomic status. Scandal recently listed IRL non-negotiable Senate-approved items in their budget like $331,000 to study hangry individuals and the thought of that being more important than accessibility to contraceptives is infuriating.
STOP THIS OH MY GOD WHY WOULD YOU EVER. Every time this happens, I want everyone else on the sidewalk to stop and publicly shame the cat caller. Gross.
9) Making stupid things newsworthy.
Facebook now has a feature like Twitter where you can see the most popular things being posted across the site. I would love to see actual news items on there instead of minor Kardashian day-to-day related bulletins. Wake me when something actually newsworthy happens. I don’t care what North’s hair looks like at her ballet class and you can’t make me care.
10) Student loan debt.
The massive tower of student loan debt hovering over millennials is crippling the housing market and has an amazing trickle-down effect wherein it wrecks the credit scores of individuals who are otherwise hardworking and pay their bills on time. It’s impossible to plan for a future wherein some people are allocating the majority of their paychecks towards their $1,000 student loan bill plus interest. Quit penalizing people for not being able to afford college and needing assistance.
11) Emphasis on college matriculation.
Spoilers: a college education, while helpful, is not completely necessary in life. Really consider what you want to be doing as a career and then consider all possible options including ones that are not four year programs with bachelor degrees. Stop treating people who have not gone to college like they’re dumb. They’re in less debt and some of them out earn degree holders.
12) The fact that basic life skills are not taught in college.
If I had a dollar for every time one of my classmates comically took to Twitter in one form or another of “lol how do I adult,” I would be student debt free. It’s astounding how much I had to learn on the fly after graduation and I wish that someone sat us down in high school and went through how to lease an apartment or what to look for in a car insurance policy.
13) The fact that there isn’t equal access to healthy food.
Food deserts are real, everybody. It’s easy to say “Eat healthy!” and “Obesity is an epidemic!” but it fails to account for the impoverished neighborhoods in which fresh fruits and vegetables are not readily accessible or necessarily affordable. Equal access to nutritious food and less shaming mothers who feed their families off the McDonalds dollar menu because sometimes, that’s what you need to do to get by. Can we also get properly labeled food? Thanks.
14) Racist mascots.
Can we stop pretending to be okay calling a team the Washington Redskins like it isn’t a Native American slur? Hollywood High’s mascot is still the Sheikhs and that school is only about a mile from my apartment. Aren’t we past this? How is this still a thing? No one other than the communities in question get to decide what is “honorable” so none of that bullshit about honoring these people – it’s a guise and it’s all fake.
15) The confederate flag.
Girl, no. Go away, Confederate Flag.
Which of these things do you want to change the most? What did we forget to include? Let us know in the comments.
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.