Let me preface this by saying that men are more than welcome to read, think, and chime in for discussion. I don’t want to exclude you; I saw so many husbands, brothers, fathers, and friends attending the marches—my heart was filled to the point of bursting. The reason I am not writing a thinkpiece catered to men is this: What I want, more than anything, is for men to start going to the women they care about with their questions and concerns. I have a dear, lifelong friend who, although he holds starkly different political views than I do, is open-minded and caring enough to come to me with legitimate topics for our discussion. He wants to know why I care about the things I do, and what my reasoning is. I love our back and forth. So, dudes, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Are you confused as to why the Women’s March occurred? Are you unsure why feminism is still necessary? Ask your wife, your mother, your daughter, your coworker…If you really don’t know, find out. That way, you can better understand our goals—and help us to reach them! Despite what some may tell you, feminists do NOT hate men…Well, most of the time. HOWEVER, the following may help you to understand where we’re coming from, so, like I said, read on.
Girls, back to business. This is what is so important for me to say right now:
If you aren’t a feminist, you just don’t get it (yet).
I was in your position. Not too long ago, either. I just didn’t understand why feminism still existed. I’ve been pro-choice since I understood what it meant to be pro-choice, but other than that, I had no opinions or strong feelings on women’s issues. It wasn’t relevant to my young self…or so I thought.
As a teen, I did what almost every other teen did: I followed what was “cool” to do. It was cool to wear thongs that showed above our low-rise jeans. It was cool to have a new boyfriend every few weeks. It was cool to be “hot,” and that in itself was far more important than being kind, funny, or thoughtful. It’s not only teens that spread such a sad message; women are, from every angle, constantly being told that the best thing they can bring forth into the world is a pretty face and a tight ass. *For a more in-depth look at the beauty and body expectations women face, read my post here. *
This message stayed at the forefront of my mind through the years. When I got to college in Florida, my main goals were to a) be popular and b) attract men. I craved reassurance and validation. Getting male attention was always on my mind. It was a thrill, a feat. I was constantly in competition with other women. “I’m hotter than you,” and “He chose me over you” were thoughts I actually had. All I cared about was that approval, that check mark on my stat sheet. I felt flattered by even the most unsolicited compliment. A man staring at me, looking me up and down, equated to flattery. A whistle as I walked by a group of smirking men gave me the giggles. Oh, what a time.
Eventually, I transferred to Northeastern, back in my beloved home state. The attention and validation-seeking pattern continued, but I started to grow weary of the effort required to be “hot.” I was constantly late for class because I changed my outfit 17 times; I watched in awe as my male peers consistently seemed to forego showering in favor of seconds at breakfast. Eventually, I stopped wearing makeup to my morning lectures. I stopped doing my hair every day. I started wearing sweats, like, everywhere. I also grew skeptical of my way of thinking; if all I needed was to be complimented, why did I feel so empty? Why did rejection hurt so badly? Why was being a sexual object losing its novelty?
This was a spark.
Next, I started to question who I really was, who I was pretending to be, and why I cared so much about others’ approval. I questioned if the attention (among other things) men were giving me really fulfilled me beyond that shallow, egotistical shit. I started fighting back when boys told me I should be more “ladylike;” What the fuck does that even mean? I’m a woman. I am womanlike. There you go.
You might be shaking your head by now, saying, “Abby, cut the shit. No one cares about your sob story. An insecure girl blames all of her problems on men…we’ve heard it all before.” I know it may seem like I’m just whining from my sheltered little bubble of privilege. My tone is not intended to be woe-is-me. I do believe that the standards women are subjected to are extremely detrimental and hurtful. That’s not what this is all about, though. I am simply recounting the developing stages of my feminism. Really, there’s SO much more to it. Feminism isn’t just about breaking free from beauty and behavior standards. We still need to fight for equality, from every angle, in all aspects of life. Even a simple Google search can tell you that:
- Street harassment (cat-calling, inappropriate touching, following, etc.) is still an epidemic, and continues to cause a great deal of discomfort and unsafe feelings for women.
- Women still earn less money than men (in the same jobs!)
- Women of color have an even more difficult time achieving a level playing field in the workplace.
- Women are still being beaten and assaulted by their partners (and other people).
- Rape, including spousal rape, is still all too common.
But…we covered everything during the women’s suffrage movement, no? We can vote and stuff now, right? Our fathers no longer give us away to the highest bidder…seems like we’ve got it made.
Lol, no. The 5 points listed above are just scratching the surface of what women are STILL going through.
Here’s some stats and facts, as well as some personal tales, for good measure.
- 65% of women in the US reported experiencing street harassment. Among all women, 23% had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual. Among men, 25% had been street harassed (a higher percentage of LGBT-identified men than heterosexual men reported this) and their most common form of harassment was homophobic or transphobic slurs (9%). (SSH 2014).
65% of women, and it is safe to say that it is yet another underreported issue. I have a friend that lives in New York that is subjected to street harassment every day. One especially frightening experience involved a man yelling lewd comments about her body from his truck, then proceeding to call her a bitch when she ignored him. He followed her down the street as she walked, yelling that she should “Learn to take a compliment.” Oh, okay! Thanks, creepy dude!
- Equality in pay has improved in the US since 1979 when women earned about 62 percent as much as men. However, there is still a discrepancy. In 2010, American women on average earned 81 percent of what their male counterparts earned (BLS 2010; DOL 2011).
As an adult in the workforce, this is very much a relevant issue to me. It is absolutely baffling that this is still happening. Doesn’t it sort of seem like a sick joke?
- Women of color are the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline, lagging behind white men, men of color, and white women. Even though they make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, women of color hold a mere 3 percent of C-suite positions (McKinsey & Company 2016).
I wish I knew more about the struggles these women face. I invite any of my friends who have experienced this firsthand or know someone who has to involve me in a discussion so that I can better relate, empathize, and understand. Feminism is for women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Sisters, know that I am with you. Know that I hear your pleas for inclusion and consideration, and I am trying my best to open my mind to all that you have to say.
- Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten (Bachman & Saltzman 1995).
Thankfully, I have no anecdote for this. But, yeah…No.
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime (CDC 2010).
One in five women. Can you even wrap your head around that? Sickening.
- On July 5, 1993, marital rape became a crime in at least 1 section of the sexual offense codes in all 50 States (Bennice & Resick 2003).
Yeah, 1993. Emphasis on the “at least 1 section.” Yup, you guessed it—spousal rape is still an OK thing to do in the eyes of the law in some parts of the United States. Let that sink in.
Now, more than ever,
women are afraid of social progress coming to a screeching halt, or, even worse, a reversal of the progress we’ve made. For those of you questioning the motives behind the marches, this may clear things up. Our newly elected “leader of the free world” has some serious allegations following him regarding sexual harassment and mistreatment of women. He seems to have an antiquated view of relationships, parenting, gender roles, and “a woman’s place;” He has boasted about his infidelity (ahem, pussy-grabbing), and his ex-wife has said that she raised their children “single-handedly,” and he has no apparent shame when it comes to his lack of involvement in raising his children. Case in point, his candor on the Howard Stern Show:
“I like kids,” Trump said shortly before he and Melania announced they were expecting their first child together. “I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them.”
Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples, assumed he’d take their baby on walks. His response?
“Right, I’m going to be walking down 5th Avenue with a baby in a carriage,” he scoffed. “It just didn’t work.”
But hey, that’s none of our business, right? I’ll tell you what is my business, though. My womb. My body. My life. Trump has teetered on abortion and birth control again and again; At the 2016 CNN-Telemundo Republican debate on eve of Texas primary on Feb 25, 2016, Trump said:
“I would defund [Planned Parenthood] because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3%. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.”
Huh? Does anyone else have a headache?
Scarier still, Trump is already taking steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, (or Obamacare), which mandates that insurers in the health insurance marketplace provide coverage for all FDA-approved birth control methods, including IUDs, with no copayment or coinsurance when provided in-network (CNN 2017). This is a very real, very conceivable threat to our rights. I personally do not know what I would do if I did not have access to affordable birth control. I weep for the women who were or will be forced to carry a baby they did not want to term because of shame or fear. I especially fear for the women in socioeconomic or domestic situations that could prove life-threatening, or push them from the brink of poverty to homelessness. It could absolutely happen without the security of contraceptives or the safety net of the right to choose.
All of these tidbits of information are meant to ignite the same spark for you anti or non-feminist women that was ignited in me. These are all women’s struggles. These are women’s rights issues. Honestly, there is so much more we are fighting for. I’m still only touching upon the tippity top of the tip of the iceberg. For example, The struggles of LGBTQ women are insurmountable. The women in countries less progressive than our own are fighting for their lives. The variety of issues women face is infinite, but this is a good representative sample of what we’re fighting for. Feminism is, literally, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” It is not the equivalent of a white supremacist group for chicks. It is not a man-hating rage mob. It is, plain and simple, the desire for equality. Equity. Fairness. That’s all we want.
Ladies, I hope I haven’t lost you. To summarize why I’m hoping you become involved in this movement:
- Male attention is not necessary to our self-esteem, but there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and enjoying the birds and bees. Just keep in mind: Your sexuality and physical attractiveness should be used as tools of empowerment and joy, not male gratification or society’s expectations. If you agree, feminism is for you.
- If you want to be viewed and treated as an equal in the workplace, feminism is for you.
- If you don’t want to be harassed in the streets, raped by your husband, assaulted or attacked by strangers and aquaintences alike, feminism is for you.
- Women’s rights are human rights. I think you’d be hard pressed NOT to find an issue above that directly relates to you, and harder still to not recognize at least one struggle your mother, sister, daughter, professor, coworker, or friend faces. Think of it this way: each one of the millions who turned out to the marches across the world has struggled with women’s issues, or is close to someone who has. There were rape and assault survivors, subjects of harassment and injustice, and women who are just plain sick and tired of being sick and tired. If this distresses you, feminism is for you.
- We are stronger together, and that’s the whole point of this movement: to band together to strive for change. Feminism is for all of us.
So, women that (still) aren’t feminists, I have a favor to ask of you. If this has not been enough to convince you that feminism is NOT a bad, unattractive, or “silly” thing, I respect you, as a woman and a human being, that is entitled to their own views and opinions. But can you do me that same favor by respecting me, and not discouraging my need to twirl my feminist baton and fight for what I believe is right? Can you refrain from mocking women who struggle with these injustices every day? Can you join us in celebrating our womanhood? After all, feminism is not trying to destroy gender, it’s simply trying to reshape how we view it. Gender roles are antiquated AF, and the demands still put on women are stifling and oppressive. Even if you don’t agree with a damn thing I’ve said, can you respect my beliefs? Can you delight at the fact that we live in a country and a time that we are able to bellow our heartsongs from the rooftops? It’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
If you do agree, then I am overjoyed; it was my goal to inform and encourage you, not to attack or judge or change you. I want to fight together. Please, stand with us. Fight with us. And if you can’t, or won’t, please keep us in mind. We just want what’s right. We just want what we believe in our hearts to be deserved.
Women who already had their feminist flag waving, I salute you. Do not listen to the hate and ridicule that tells us “It could be worse.” Ignore the suggestions to “Go and see what women go through in Afghanistan” or the scoffs at the words ‘sexism’ and ‘misogyny ‘ as if they were plucked from a Harry Potter book. There will always be people trying to bring us down, hold us back, put out our fire. We don’t need them or their approval; We never did. We do need each other, though. We can do this, together.
Bachman, R. & Saltzman, E. (1995). “Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey. [http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/FEMVIED.PDF]
Bennice & Resick (2003). “Marital Rape: History, Research, and Practice.” [https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=201457]
BLS (2010). “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009,” Washington, D.C. [http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2009.pdf]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Division of Violence Prevention (2010). “National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010,” Atlanta, Georgia. [https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf]
CNN (2014). “What Happens to Birth Control Under President Trump?” [http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/health/birth-control-trump/]
DOL (2011). “Women’s Employment During the Recovery,” Washington, D.C.
McKinsey & Company (2016). “Women in The Workplace.” [https://womenintheworkplace.com/] [file:///home/chronos/u-0c95e122ecce0815ecd3eda3bff6724f40f55840/Downloads/Women_in_the_Workplace_2016.pdf]
SSH (2014). [http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/National-Street-Harassment-Report-November-29-20151.pdf]