On May 2, an article was posted here on Odyssey. I only just saw it this week, but I wish I had seen this article closer to when it was published. I feel like I could have helped more if I had been quicker to respond. Unfortunately, that is not the case, so I’m working with what I’ve got.
When I saw this article title pop up in the “Trending” column on the right side of my screen, I was angry. Thoroughly, genuinely angry. Then, I took few deep breaths and read the article. By the end, I had been reminded of a very important thing, which I hope will be a lesson to anyone who reads this article. As a feminist, part of my job is not to tear other women down, but to build them up and help them to realize their full worth. So, to the author of the aforementioned article, I ask this: Please read my article with the same cautiously open mind I read your article with and consider that we, not as Odyssey writers, but as people, as with everyone else in the world, might benefit a lot from hearing each other out.
I, too, believe that I am a strong woman, and I, too, believe in a strong man.
These two declarations are not in any way conflicting. I have had several positive male and female role models in my life, and I would never even think to consider any one of them, especially based on gender, superior to another. This is because I, as a feminist, believe that people of all genders deserve social, political, and economic equality. Here’s the thing— I think, on a basic, novice-like level, you’re a feminist, too. In response to your final paragraph, please understand that any woman who tells you “I am a feminist,” but follows it up with claiming superiority of any kind based on the fact that they are female is tragically misinformed and incorrect. Those are two radically conflicting views. Someone who believes women to be inferior to men is called a misogynist, and someone who believes men to be inferior to women is a misandrist. There is a word for it because it is a real issue, but it is not the same thing as feminism. In addition, it is important to note that you do not have to be a strong woman to be equal to anyone. People are all inherently created equal.
In response to “Relax, feminists, we’re OK,” I say this: We are not OK. You are.
I do not begrudge you the progressive world you are living in. I wish you could see the dire need this world has for feminism, but I am genuinely glad that you have never experienced sexism traumatic enough to lead you to see that. I am glad because that means that somewhere, for someone, feminism has worked, even if you don’t realize it.
But around the world and even right here at home in the United States, millions of women are still experiencing brutal misogyny.
It is estimated that one in five women will be raped in her lifetime. Likewise, approximately one in 71 men will be raped in his lifetime. This is a feminist issue because of the way women are viewed. Rape happens when offenders get it in their heads that they are entitled to sex with others. Those others are, of course, most often women. To be fair, women can and do commit sexually violent crimes; however, female sex offenders only account for about 10 percent of reported sex crimes, and even fewer women are ever incarcerated for committing forcible rape. Please do not focus too much on the words “reported” and “incarcerated.” It is true that these statistics could be higher if all sex crimes were reported. However, it can be inferred that statistics regarding male sex offenders would also be higher, because on college campuses alone, more than 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
Similarly, the New York City Anti-Violence Project reports that 72 percent of the victims of hate violence homicides in the year 2013 were transgender women. Here’s why: People, especially cisgender men, are baffled by the idea that someone designated male at birth would not be happy with their assigned gender. Being a woman is considered so inferior to being a man that people would rather kill someone than let her act conversely.
Also of note is that, even though we do have the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women in 2015 still made about 79 cents to every dollar made by a man with the same education, experience, and position. The idea that it makes sense that women are paid less because we are newer to the workforce is strange to me. I think I understand what you mean, but what it comes down to is that, in 2015, 1980, or any other year, a man and woman in the same position with the same qualifications should have been paid the same. Why would it matter what women before us did with their lives? Unless they were feminist activists, why would my mother, her mother, or her mother’s mother be of any importance when deciding what to pay me? My mom is a librarian, her mother was an English teacher, and her mom was a stay-at-home mother. Someday, I want to be an editor. Does the fact that my great-grandmother didn’t work mean I should be paid less than my male counterpart?
Other signs that sexism is still an issue include the following:
While women make up just more than half of the population of the United States of America, they make up only about 20 percent of Congress.
Women are generally expected to want children instead of a career, but maternity leave is really sub-par in most of the United States.
I, like the majority of women everywhere, am afraid to walk around at night, and not for no reason.
There are so many more examples I could include, but it would take way too long.
In response to “Women have never been more respected,” I have two points. First of all, there was a time when women were revered essentially as goddesses because they could create life. This was before men realized that they did have a part in the process. That’s just a fun fact; it’s not really important to my cause. Secondly, though, I want to point out that you may not be totally wrong. Not even 100 years ago, women still weren’t even considered important enough to vote, and now we have highly influential women like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé! But why stop now? Why stop fighting for equality when we’re on such a roll? Why call off feminists when feminists are the reason we have all of these options today? Also, according to a Huffington Post article, the United States isn’t really the best place for women to live— we’re not even in the top 20. That said, it’s not like living in the U.S. as a woman is so terrible either; there aren’t a whole lot of places I’d rather be.
“What ever happened to chivalry?” I think it is important to draw a line between chivalry and benevolent sexism. Chivalry is romantic. I don’t mean lovey-dovey. I mean it’s idealistic. The fact is, the word “chivalry” is derived from a French word that literally just means “man on a horse,” but it has been twisted into meaning something closer to “polite.” There’s nothing wrong with being polite. The issue is with men who do things they consider to be polite because they assume women are incapable. I got my first flat tire at age 17 and didn’t know how to change it. But then I was taught, and now, I’d like to fix my own flat tires. To offer to help is fine; to assume I don’t know how to do it myself and consequently offer to help is benevolent sexism.
I weigh 220 pounds. Aaron Rodgers, who only weighs about five pounds more, can take a hit pretty well. That said, I have almost no muscle on my body, so I probably couldn’t take a hit the same way, not even from a relatively light linebacker. However, my sister is considerably more fit than I am, and I strongly believe that, if she had trained like any other NFL hopeful, she could be a legitimate competitor. Unfortunately, the true issue women face in the pro-athlete sphere is a lack of encouragement and support. While that is changing, it is very little, very late. I was excited to learn that the Bills just hired the NFL’s first full-time female coach. Her position isn’t a particularly prominent one, but that’s not my real issue. My issue is that most NFL teams have upwards of 20 full time coaching positions, meaning there are currently about 700 full-time coaches in the NFL. The NFL was founded in 1920, interestingly, only two days after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed. And it took almost 100 years for even one of those many, many coaching positions to be filled by a female. Physical limitations aren’t even a factor here. Clearly, there is a shocking lack of opportunity for women in the NFL, and that’s without even considering the many other pro-athlete leagues in existence. I will say that I am surprised that, as an athlete yourself, you have not noticed this before. Plus, the problems women face are not just an underestimation of our physical ability. I don’t know that I would claim women have a higher capacity for intelligence than men across the board, but certainly, we are just as intellectually capable. And yet, we don’t get much credit for that, either. I have spoken to so many people, men and women alike, who believe that women are generally less intellectual than men. Based on your statement, I get the impression this is not something you have encountered, and I stand by what I said earlier; I’m happy for you. But you are part of a small percentage of women who feel they are being treated equally. I mean, just last week was the 240th birthday of this country, and this year marks our 57th presidential election, but we have yet to see a female president. It’s not because of a lack of interest, either; the first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, not even 100 years after the birth of our nation, and only 84 years after the first presidential election. Outside of political offices, other fields dominated by men that are not physical include, but are not limited to, accounting and finance, comedy, technology, and math and science. Clearly, men and women are not given the same intellectual opportunities, either.
I am a strong woman, and though I still consider myself to be pretty dependent on my parents, it is not because I am female. I don’t need a man. If I marry a man someday, it will be because I want to, not because I need to. I think your statement holds some truth; while I do not believe it to be gender-specific, I believe that people in general complement each other, and it is okay to lean on each other and be vulnerable. Feminism doesn’t negate that.
The problems I endure that are rooted in sexism and misogyny do not lead me to put down men. I try hard every day not to put anyone down. But when faced head-on with sexism or misogyny, attempting to teach people about these things and holding up feminism as a solution is not anti-man. It’s anti-inequality.
Anyone can be a feminist. You do not have to be female. All you have to do is believe in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Be wary of people who identify as feminists but clearly do not believe the sexes are equal, and don’t let them taint your impression of feminism. Feminism means equality. It’s time to embrace that.
So, if you are the author of the original article, I thank you for making it this far. Hopefully, I have not offended you or deepened your distrust of feminists. I only want to help. And if you are not the author of the original article, still, thank you. I hope that this can be one more piece of a long discussion about equality worldwide.