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Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Feminist's Box

Look, feminism is a squidgy topic these days. Now that we can vote and own property and work and stuff, what's the problem, amirite? Do we really need to keep "making people aware" of the stereotypes perpetuated and marginalization of women in modern society? Doesn't everyone already know? And if they do know, doesn't that make it individual choice? And if women are choosing to live in certain ways and enjoy certain things, isn't that what the main push of first and second wave feminism was about anyway? Haven't we won?

Yes and no.

I mean, we really do have a bigger box, and it is a lot cozier in here now that we've been allowed to decorate (see what I did there?), and it would be kind of nice to just stretch out in here and bask in how far we've come. We deserve a break from all this struggling and fighting, and gosh darn it, we just aren't even likable anymore. Why isn't anyone ever grateful?

Because how far we've come isn't far enough. Because not only are things still incredibly weighted toward men (white men in particular), but the general population believes that they are not. Which, really, makes the problem worse than it was before because you cannot fight a problem people who should be on your side (I mean, all people really, but it's worse when you're like, but, guys, come on! This is you we're talking about / fighting for here!) refuse to acknowledge exists.

And just to clear some things up, it's not about wanting things made easier for us. It's about wanting the structural set in our society made equal. We don't want special programs and rights and passages and treatment. We don't want an equal ending point, meaning, we don't expect that being a woman should make it easier for us to succeed as we go through like. We want an equal starting point. Meaning we'd simply like not to have to claw and fight and spend years just getting to the point where men are born. That is what privilege is. It's not a bad thing, you needn't feel personally bad about it if you were born into it. But is is what it is, and we're not trying to drag anyone down so much as we're trying to climb up the patriarchy. Don't be scared, seriously. Us gaining equality does not diminish your life, I promise.

Anyway,  I could write pages on this and bore you to tears, so instead, I'm just going to point out a few specific ways in which women do not start (or end, but remember, the important piece here is start) on the same footing as men. As a group. Not talking individuals. But as a sector of society. In these ways, women are not equal to men, do not have the same opportunities as men, must work harder than men to achieve recognition or rights. Here we go, then.

Here is my feminist's box (get it?). I'm just going to go through each wall of it point by point. In this world and society where "feminism has basically already won guys, come on" we still deal with:

- Unequal pay: Women get paid 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. The equal pay legislation was shot down by our government this year. Awesome. Thanks, guys.

- Corporate absence: Women only account for 12 CEO positions in the Fortune 500 companies. Women make up 2.6 percent of corporal officers in these companies.

- Violence: one in three women will experience some form of violence, including rape and assault, and women are 10 times more likely to be victimized by intimate partners than men.

- Grooming requirements: Hair, makeup and style are considered mandatory to rise in the workforce or in society. When women don't 'groom' properly, their lack of care is blamed for their lack of success.

- Political absence: Only 20 percent of the U.S. senate is made up of women and only 12 percent of governors in the United States.

- Absence in the arts: Only 3 percent of artists highlighted in the MET's modern art section are women.

- Failure language: Failure is consistently feminized. People whining are bitches, or c*nts...if you are afraid you are a pussy...people are douches or twats...all of these represent weakness and something to be ridiculed, failure. And all of them refer to women.

- Property ownership: Worldwide, women own only 10 percent of all property (I cannot find a U.S. statistic. Sorry about that. Understand that this guy is apples and oranges with the rest of the examples.)

- Literature: Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard says "instead of allowing women to succeed on their own merits the world of male critics and editors scratch each other's backs." Do you know who Elizabeth Jane Howard is? Point.

- Reproductive control: the people in charge of this country (which shown above are men) have control over whether or not women have rights to choice and birth control.

- Childcare inequality: Women are still held to be the main ones responsible for children. They are not, in this country, given automatic paid maternity leave.

- Healthcare access: Women's privacy is in danger when it comes to who can access their healthcare records and why, particularly pertaining to the aforementioned reproductive choices.


And yet, all of these things are not where the main problem lies. The main problem is that you (and if not you, then someone you know) read through this list not nodding along, but shaking your head. If they only worked harder, or asked for more money, or loved their children, or shaved their legs, this wouldn't happen to them, you think.

That's the problem. That's why we can never be content in a box.

For more amazing stories on what feminism means to these incredible individuals, check these out:

Feminism: Nobody told me how, by Smibbo:  "I saw boys who were teased for being “like a girl”
I saw girls who were shunned for being “too bossy”. I saw the way the rest of the world, outside of my happy-hippy sheltered life really thought. So even though I was brought up to BE a feminist and feminism runs through me effortlessly and without thought, I came to understand why there was a need for such thought, such effort, such …push."
Equal, by Pollychromatic:  "Feminism is a statement that women are equal to men, and to correct inequality where it exists. Both my daughter and my son deserve such a future."

I Was Born a Feminist, by Elizabeth Hawksworth: "Feminism is about equality. I was born a feminist.
Children are born not knowing the difference between women and men, black and white, straight and gay. Children are born knowing that their neighbour is their neighbour, that everyone can be a friend, and that everyone deserves a cookie when the plate is passed around. Children are taught the differences in society. Children are given cues to follow. But when they are born – all children know is that the people around them are people."
A Bit About Feminism, by Corndog Mama: "In this moment, I have a partner who recognizes that I'm bearing a heavy load, and he's looked for a way to make it lighter. In this moment, I am conscious that I don't have to be everything for everyone: I only need to be me, calm and reflective for my sake and that of my unborn child's."
Feminism in my Life, by Accidentally Mommy: "As a rebellious teenager, I defined feminism as being able to run around and do what I wished, date however many men I wanted, and have my world on a plate with no social repercussions. I bought myself birth control, and I worked a job where my co-workers were predominantly male. The misogynists I knew called me an undisciplined slut. I disagreed. I still disagree."

Feminism Defined: The Lowest Common Denominator, by Fine and Fair:  "Alright then. So what's the lowest common denominator? Do all feminists hate men? No. Are all feminists lesbians? No. Are all feminists hairy legged, makeup abstaining loudmouths? No. (But some really cool ones are!) Do all feminists believe that every woman should work and that stay-at-home moms are setting the movement back? Certainly not. Do all feminists believe that women share equal status as human beings and should have the same rights and opportunities as men?"

Each of these pieces is as amazing as the woman who wrote it.

Sources for this (my) piece:



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