Saturday, November 2, 2013

Giving thanks for… Feminists

Rebecca Searles has a great flowchart showing ‘how to tell if you’re a feminist in two easy steps’:

Today, I am celebrating all the feminists who fought so hard for the rights that many of us now take for granted. It’s ironic (and sad) but the very fact that so many young women reject the label of feminist is a sign of how much change the earlier feminists were able to affect. Today, it is hard to imagine encountering the kind of overt discrimination that women faced in the 60’s; most girls are raised believing that they really can do anything their brothers can; and women outnumber men among college students.

And yet…
  • Only 98 of the 535 seats (that’s 18.3%) in Congress are held by women (20= 20%, in the Senate and 78 =17.9% in the House);
  • Only 21 (4.2%) of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women; only 45 (4.5%) of the Fortune 1000 CEOs are women;
  • Women continue to be vastly underrepresented in science and engineering, law, the higher ranks of academia, and even in television;  
  • We don’t know as much about women’s health because of bias in medical research (where studies that only included men are treated as if they apply equally to women).
  • I have, more than once, been told that I “don’t look like an economist” because I am not a white male.
I could go on but my point is simply that there’s still plenty of need for the kind of feminists who are willing to step up, call themselves feminists and not let people pretend everything’s honky dory.

Let me also be clear: Calling myself a feminist does NOT mean I judge any woman who chooses to stay home and raise her kids. It DOES mean I think we also shouldn’t judge any MAN who wants to stay home and raise his kids, nor should we judge any women who chooses NOT to stay home with her kids. To me, being a feminist means recognizing that these are all valid choices and we need to be working to make sure that governments and companies have policies that allow people to make the choices that work best for them.

Calling myself a feminist also does NOT mean I think all men are out to get women. Given the power differences in this country, we would never have gotten as far as we have if an awful lot of men had not been willing to stand up and be feminists too. I DO believe that there are some people in this country who will never ‘get it’ – and there are more men in that category than women – and being a feminist means calling out those people when they say stupid sh*t, not just letting it go and chalking it up to ‘it’s just a joke’ or ‘boys will be boys’.

And calling myself a feminist does NOT mean I think women are somehow better than men. I do think that the fact that some people equate saying “women are EQUAL” with “women are BETTER” is an indication of the imbalance that still exists in society – we’re so used to men being dominant that the idea of women being equal somehow seems odd and possibly unfair. But if the idea of having half of Congress be female seems like that would be “too many” women, then I have to wonder what your idea of equal representation would be…

Today, I am giving thanks that I was raised by a feminist mother. And I am grateful that there are still plenty of women who are proud to claim the Feminist label. What about you?

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