I had always grown up with a mother who taught me to stand up for myself, chase after my dreams, and not let anyone determine my future for me. She raised me to be the bold woman I am today and I will always be proud of that. However, in today's day and age I struggle with feeling proud as a woman in current American society. You may roll your eyes at this statement and say "here we go another millennial feminist article about why us men suck". That my friend is where you are wrong.
I do not label myself as a feminist, I label myself as a woman. I am proud to hold that title. However, if I did identify as a feminist I'm not quite sure why that would be the worst thing. See a feminist is most simply defined as someone who believes in political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Now, why is this such an eye-rolling worthy definition? Is it not okay for me as a woman to have the same freedom to health care, wages, and political standing as men? It's not the 1920's anymore my friends.
Back then most women were depicted as lowly housewives whose main duties revolved around sending their children off to school, preparing lunch for their husband to bring to work, cleaning the house while everyone was gone, and anxiously preparing a meal for when everyone was due to return home. However, even with this biased view broadcasted all over America, there were women brave enough to stand up and speak about issues such as domestic abuse, rape, and infidelity within marriage.
Similarly, today hundreds of female activists continue to stand strong in the pursuit of gender equality and the attainment of basic rights as humans. It seemed that in the past years we may have been making small strides forward as women in the USA. But after this years election, it feels more like our progress has come to a screeching halt and even switched into reverse.
It is hard to feel appreciated and respected as a woman when you live in a country run by a man who was praised for a slogan "Grab her right in the p****" during his campaign. If that doesn't send a national message to the male population of our country then I don't know what does. In my personal opinion, this broadcasts to men of all ages that sexual harassment is okay. In fact, it seemed so okay that the slogan has been printed on merchandise and apparel for all to purchase. Isn't that great?
However, sexual harassment is hard for most men to understand considering most don't have to deal with people trying to hit on them in their workplace because they forgot a button on their shirt or men grabbing their ass without their consent because your "butt looks good today". They don't understand the pain that is a menstrual cycle, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, childbirth, or the daily struggles that women deal with. Granted men all over have their own struggles and there are in fact men who do experience sexual harassment, abuse, and rape just like us women. However, this population that is capable of understanding our struggles as females are not the ones who are governing our country, unfortunately. In fact, 71% of our elected officials are men.
A perfect example of the disparity of understanding between male and female struggles can be seen in the case of Cyntoia Brown. This case has been broadcasted all over social media recently for a very justifiable reason. It is unfathomable the time that this woman is serving based on the circumstances of the crime which was committed. Cyntoia Brown has already served 10 years of her life sentence which began at the age of 16. What could a 16-year-old girl be sentenced to life for you ask?
Cyntoia was born with fetal alcohol syndrome to an unfit mother and was raised in abusive home. She decided to run away from her adoptive family in hopes of a new life, but ended up being forced into prostitution. She later met a man named "Cut Throat" who began physically and sexually abusing her and trafficking her. She was "purchased" by a 43-year-old man and was taken back to his house. Cyntoia saw a gun in the man's room and became frightened. She kept denying the man sex. While frustrated, he apparently reached under the bed and that was when Cyntoia grabbed the gun and shot him as "self-defense". She ultimately was tried for first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.
There is still hope that Brown may be up for parole when she is 69 years old. Her case has been spread nationally like wildfire through social media and has been featured on numerous celebrities pages. The national attention has brought many questions to the surface. A few being "How can a victim of sexual assault be punished for self-defense?", "A woman is serving life for defending herself against her trafficker, but men who have committed vicious rape and sexual abuse are out freely roaming our streets?"
All of these are valid questions lead us all to ponder the sincerity of our judicial system and its favor of a specific gender and lack of understanding of the other. Such inequality is illicitly executed in the case of Austin James Wilkerson's early release after being sentenced to a 2-year work release after committing sexual assault and rape against Kendra Heuer at the University of Colorado. Wilkerson was released on the basis of "good time" and the concern that his sentence will "ruin his life".
This is utterly disturbing for the rape victim and women around the country who will never be freed from living a full life because of the nightmare they had to experience. Wilkerson's victim made a resounding statement, "I am not afforded the same privilege of getting an early release from my lifelong sentence." A lifelong sentence of pain and reminding that is. Whose life is this case really ruining?
Cases like Cynthia Brown's and Austin Wilkerson makes it hard to feel appreciated as a woman because when it comes to real issues, life or death issues, you are not prioritized. Your health as a woman is not prioritized. Your rights as a woman are not prioritized. The tragedy you face is not prioritized, but downplayed so that your predator may be freed because his life is valued higher than yours.
We live in a country run by a president who has 19 different sexual harassment claims against him dating as far back as the 1980's that have been tucked under the rug. A president who is trying to make it your employer's choice whether you have the right to contraceptives or not. A decision which quite frankly doesn't involve anyone without a uterus or ovaries.
Let me let the lovely Sophia Bush break it down for you:
It is hard to be a young woman in today's country because I am apprehensive to become a part of the workforce because I already know I have the odds against me. I fear for my health because I know it is not valued by my president. I fear for my future daughter because I cannot see what the future of our country will be and I can only pray that it will be better than what it is now.
I am thankful for the women like Sophia Bush, Malala Yousafzai, Meghan Markle, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence, and the many more who use their advantageous positions to advocate for women.
Call this article dramatic, call this article biased, call this article outlandish, call it whatever you want. But I won't stop being proud to call myself a woman and speaking up for what I believe.