Monday, July 28, 2014

Who's Against Feminism?

Make it so. 

What does it mean to be a feminist?

As most of you know, this Tumblr account has been causing some uproar in the internet world. For those who may not have heard of this account, it consists of various women who have taken selfie-snapshots with captions boasting the myriad reasons why they don't need feminism. The reasons range from adamant assertions that men and women are currently treated equally; that feminism demonizes "traditional family values"; that women cannot move heavy objects; and that feminism has caused social destruction.

The rude language and horrific grammar of these women notwithstanding....Seriously, my inner English teacher starts twitching every time I visit that site...Today, I decided to address the profound ignorance, naivete, and general wrongness of this supposedly enlightening movement.

1. Men and women are currently treated equally. Women can vote, can't they!
     Allow me to make three statements: credit scores, salaries, workplace flexibility. Take a man and woman. Stand them side by side. Make them the same age. Give them identical lives: school, loans, jobs, salaries, and so forth. Now check their credit scores. Whose is higher? In most cases, the man's score will be higher. Why, you ask? Because he is male. Now, I don't have dazzling citations to support this statement; but I do know from personal experience. A woman whom I trust asked this question of her credit card company and received that exact answer. No one seems to know why this discrepancy exists, but exist it does. While a few points on your credit score may not seem earth-shatteringly terrible, the discrepancy does point to a prejudice inherent in our society's consciousness: that men are more responsible than women, that they are more fiscally responsible and reliable.
     Let's now consider salary discrepancies. At most schools, male teachers still make more than female teachers. Male doctors make more than female doctors. Male lawyers make more than female doctors. Why? Because they are male. Don't believe me? Maybe you'll believe Claudia Goldin, who recently published an article for the American Economic Review.
    Workplace flexibility. One argument against salary discrepancies is that the discrepancy exists due to differences between job types rather than within jobs. For example, women tend to gravitate toward more flexible, lower paying jobs rather than rigid, time-consuming, high- pay jobs. Often, these jobs require and reward employees for working long hours, staying on call, and traveling often. Because these requirements oppose the desire to spend time at home with family and children, many women and some men tend to gravitate toward jobs that may pay less but allow them to spend more time--or any time--with their families. A successful woman whom I greatly respect once told me that a woman who decides to have children can kiss her career goodbye. Why? Because the business world is profoundly male-oriented and product-driven.  Why should being female and possessing the ability to carry, birth, and raise life get in the way of success? Why do we ask women to conform to this job dynamic? For that matter, why do we ask men to do it? Of course, the nature of some jobs may always require these sacrifices--but is there a way to modify the company or job to balance work and life? Some examples may be offering company-provided daycare, remote work days, options to take family when you travel, paid paternity leave as well as paid maternity leave. What impact would a few simple changes such as these have on employee morale, employee turnover, and, in turn, upon productivity?

2. Feminism has caused social destruction.
To be honest, I'm not sure where these women are getting this idea. The right to vote, to own property, to have exercise freedom of speech, to be gainfully employed-- these rights, direct results of feminism, all sound pretty good to me. I personally quite enjoy knowing my voice is heard during the presidential elections. Last I checked, women weren't sending our society to hell in a handbasket. Or should I say a handbag? As long as its Coach, we're okay with it through, right.

3. Feminism is a waste of time.
Not only does this statement rankle my skin, it makes me sad. If demanding equal rights, equal pay, and respect seems like a waste of time, we clearly need to fight even harder. Don't let someone tell you that the pay discrepancy is "pretty much  over" because the gap is slimming. Don't let someone call you--male or female--a data point. Don't let someone call you a rabble-rouser just because you stood up for yourself. Quelling someone's legitimate voice just to maintain the status quo is never acceptable. I don't care what corporate America says or respects. As aforementioned, I have a Coach purse with a one-way ticket for them, anyway.

4. Feminism demonizes men and ridicules gentility. 
Actually, feminism seeks to elevate women. While some extremists may belittle men in the process, that doesn't mean that all feminism is about demonizing or ridiculing the male sex. The movement isn't about tearing down one at the expense of another.  It's about celebrating and demanding equality of rights, opportunity, voice, and status. Personally, I have no problem with a man holding open a door for me. To me, that signals that he respects me as a fellow human being. I'll gladly hold the door for him in turn. Polite manners are for everyone, people. Have some class.

5. Women need men to lift heavy objects.
First of all, I would like to point out that I've tossed feed bags, carried hay bales, toted full water buckets, and  hefted roping saddles with the best of them. I've helped carry sofas, beds,boxes of books, and recliners up and down stairs in many a moving venture. Sure, men are physically stronger. In most cases. My husband is certainly stronger than I am. All that being said, using this genetic fact as a reason to denounce feminism...? Get thee some hand trucks, woman. And, while you're at it let me introduce you to the Mighty Kacy.

6. Feminism seeks to equate women to men. But that's impossible!
When asked their views on feminism, several women respond that it is impossible to equate men to women. We cannot be treated equally because we are not created or made equally. I may be wrong, but I believe that the people with this attitude hold the stereotype of feminism that shouts things like "girls can be firefighters too!" There is more to feminism than Rosie the Riveter. Feminism doesn't seek to equate women to men; it doesn't ignore the fact that men are often physically superior to women (see above point). Feminism espouses that our worth, value, and position within society should not be determined by our physicality, strength, sex, or gender. Just as our society seeks to move beyond assigning value based upon skin color or ability/disability, we need to move beyond assigning value based upon gender. Again, feminism doesn't seek to equate men to women; it demands the equal treatment of man and woman, the equal expression, acknowledgment, and celebration of voice.

All this being said, like any social movement, feminism has its extremists. What I hope you will take away from this article is this simple truth: all humans, whether male or female, should be treated equally. We should be afforded the same rights and opportunities and be judged by our actions rather than our physical appearances.  Women's stories and voices should echo as loudly and strongly as any male's--whether it be in the workplace, at home, in the community, or in the annals of history. And until I see that day come, I will continue to stand up for myself and for other women.  And I know that my husband, too, stands right beside me in support.

Not behind me, not in front of me. Beside me.

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