I come from a family of 6. Myself, 2 sisters, 1 brother, 1 mom, and 1 dad. I have 8 female-identifying cousins and 4 male-identifying cousins. Four aunts and 4 uncles. In a predominantly female-identifying family, I take gender issues to heart.
I found myself at "Baby No More Times" on a rainy and windy Monday night seeking warmth, camaraderie, entertainment and common sense days after the women's marches took place around the world. I wasn't disappointed.
While there was a cloud of sadness from the Clinton loss (a loss for everyone everywhere), the enthusiasm and thought-provoking performance on stage was remarkable, not to mention the vulnerability it took to sing songs such as "I Love Myself," "Catcall," and "#YesAllBitches," was empowering.
Aside from being thoroughly inspired and impressed, the show made me consider the world we continue to build.
A world where we are afraid of uniqueness, afraid of unknowns and afraid to trust our neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers.
A world where our expectations for one group of people is vastly different from our expectations of another.
A world where people can succeed unscathed after assaulting another or using language such as, "grab her by the pussy."
But mostly, a world that grows at the expense of women, LGBTQ communities, and people of color.
I find it depleting to think about all the changes that are coming down the pipeline (pun intended). As a twentysomething, I have witnessed the status quo change to be more representative of the supposed "melting pot" of America, but it seems that the changes in the future will pause, if not outright reverse, the progress.
In the time that many people in my life may decide to buy homes, get married, or have children, they will encounter insecurity and instability executive order after executive order and fight after fight. My concern for the future of twentysomethings made me wonder what questions young females will be asking as we move forward in a world where women are consistently shamed, questioned, treated as inferior, and kept from education and opportunity. Flashback to My Girl:
1. Am I an American?
It seems like an easy question to answer, "of course, you live in New York, you have a U.S. passport and your grandparents came here years ago." But with the way women's rights and gender rights are shaping up, being a part of the United States is becoming more and more isolating and exclusionary. For example, if there wasn't enough shame in periods and sex, female-identifying people will likely have a tougher time getting access to their healthcare needs.
Laws, plans, acts, and statements made by supposed leaders clue us in to what the country values -- threatening Planned Parenthood and the access to a safe abortion, effective birth control, and mental health care, indicate that women's health cannot be in their hands and instead regulated and made inaccessible by those chanting "America first."
Not to mention the fact that Flexible Spending Accounts for health and medical needs include paying for condoms, but not things like tampons and pads.
I question how valued I am in a country where "you guys" is used for everyone, but "you girls" would never be used for men and women alike, where empowering characteristics are lauded for men and submissive characteristics lauded for women and where female-identifying full-time workers make only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.
2. Can I actually be whatever I want to be when I grow up?
We want so desperately to say yes to this question for all future people, but there is a yes and there is a no. You can try to be in a field or industry that is overrun with male-identifying people, but it will be more challenging than settling for a role that people expect women to do.
Others may want to push you out or prevent you from joining and succeeding. Sorry to break it to you millennials, but according to Harvard Business Review's piece, "Are U.S. Millennial Men Just as Sexist as Their Dads?", examining multiple studies, millennial men are less likely to be comfortable with women being senators than Americans overall.
In another study, it was revealed that 6-year-old girls were more likely to state that boys were "really, really smart" while knowing and acknowledging that girls do better in school. While 5-year-old girls identified their own gender as "really, really smart" like boys did.
Seems that girls are dissuaded from certain roles that require strong intelligence such as the sciences because of this perspective. Girls will again have a tougher time accessing jobs and opportunities they want.
So what now? How will we answer to the future? This isn't a women's issue or a man's issue, this is a humanity issue. Every time a woman breaks through that glass ceiling, someone else seems to go and patch it so no other woman can.
I am less afraid about the divisiveness of people who are already divided (i.e. Democrats and Republicans) and more worried about the divisiveness within groups and communities that share similarities, not differences, like women.
If we shout each other down, we will never be able to move onward and upward. We are going to need to start answering these questions because they will come up. I look to educators, readers, artists and all leaders to empower girls to think they are just as great as the boy sitting next to them. We will need to address the great divide and the many barriers in the lives of our future children or else we will see a growing gap between females and males.
Say it with me now: "I am enough!"
Cheers to empowerment!