About a week ago, I read an article in The Odyssey titled “I’m a Female and I’m So Over Feminists.” Essentially, the piece was written by a woman who argued that feminists need to back down because “we women are okay.” She began her argument saying first, that men and women are not the same and therefore, should not expect to be treated as such. Secondly, she argued that because women are relatively new to the work force, it makes sense that pay isn’t equal but that women are on their way to breaking the glass ceiling using hard work and determination. YAY. She concludes by saying that she does not believe that any gender should put the other down saying, “Men and women are meant to complement one another — not to be equal or to over-power.”
Generally, I would have read the article and went on with my life bemoaning the ignorance of such people. Only, I kept seeing it being posted by friends — people I would consider to be intelligent young women. As comments and reactions poured in, I was astounded by the lack of knowledge, or rather the misconceptions about what it means to be a feminist. People would say things that I consider feminism, but disguised them under a different name, afraid to be associated with the movement.
This is my effort to share what feminism means to me. Let me begin by saying that feminists don’t think they are the same as men. Seriously. No self-respecting feminist who has any sense of biology is going to tell you that they are the same as a man. There are biological differences that separate men and women and make us different. That does not mean, however, that men and women are not equal. There is this false understanding that when feminists are talking about equality they’re talking about being the same as men.
Equality isn’t about being the same; it’s about having the same status, rights and opportunities. It’s about understanding that men and women alike are both capable of being intelligent persons. Men and women alike are both capable of being athletic and strong beings. It’s about being able to speak in a room and being heard, and not being dismissed because your voice is a couple of registers too high. It’s about equal pay for equal work.
Unfortunately, some people believe that women in the United States already have those things. Or even if they don’t, they still don’t have it as bad as they used to. People who argue that feminists need to back down because the status of life isn’t as bad as it used to be are people who evidently have no idea about progress. To say that just because women don’t have it as bad as they used to so they should quit looking for more is like when people told freed slaves they should stop fighting for civil rights because at least they were being paid now. It’s saying to women, “Oh you’re not being paid equally, but that’s okay, you should just be glad you have a job.” The fact that people think like this genuinely appalls me. The fact that women think like this is an upsetting realization of the socialized and internalized ideas that they, as women, must always limit themselves, that they have reached their peak and should ask for no more.
But for those of you who still think the feminist movement has become obsolete, think about this: In a recent study about the upcoming election, participants were asked about the distribution of wealth in their households. In other words, did they or their spouse make more money? This was done to remind people about the disruption in gender roles by making them think about who made more money in the household. They were also asked who they preferred for the presidential pick. Half of them were asked about income first, the other about the president first. When men were asked the question about income second, more favored Hillary Clinton. However, when they were asked about income distribution first, a significant portion favored Trump. This highlights the idea of “gender role threat.” Essentially, it means certain men are afraid of the shift in gender roles and in some way see it as a threat to their masculinity. This impacts all walks of life from businesses to elections and even day to day life, as the saying goes: “if you’re used to privilege, equality seems like oppression.”
Outwardly, it may seem that the fight for gender equality has been won, but the truth of the matter is that there is still a long battle ahead because there is still a misguided mindset about the role of women in society. Women cannot achieve equality until both women and men in society accept that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and not with the timidity often expected of women but with the fierceness that women are capable of.