The Weaker Sex Is StrengtheningJanuary 30, 2017 • By Caro and Michelle • 9 • 1 • 1971
After the Women’s March that happened in hundreds of cities across the globe, the number one criticism came in the form of a single word: Why? And sure, on the surface, we’ve never had it better. Women today have the choice about whether to work, get married, or have children. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. And climate change is not a hoax; Antarctica’s ice sheets are melting. Fast. And so are our rights to our so-called choices, apparently. But it’s true: we are no longer forced to stay in the kitchen, donning aprons and smiles, to bake pot roasts and soufflés all day if that’s not our cup of tea. (That’s still fine if it is!) We’ve come so far and we have so many freedoms now. What’s the point of complaining?
Our equality is quite fragile. Much of why we’re equal today is because we’ve fought so hard for the laws that are now in place. Equal employment rights for women and men, right to vote, property rights, right to education, reproductive rights … If men and women really are equal in modern societies like ours, why bother institutionalizing or supporting them by law? When was the last time you saw a law that guaranteed the right for men to lead a country right off a cliff?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident” says the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal.” Women have never had the luxury of this kind of assumption. Every right we have has come as the result of a long struggle. We’ve had a lot of practice at struggling, though. After all, many of us do live with men. We love them, but they can be a bit oblivious at times. Like when they simply push a pile of dirty dishes on the table aside so they can set their laptop down instead of, oh, I don’t know, washing them. Or when they act like they’re doing us a favor by remembering our importance on “special” days like Mother’s Day or International Women’s Day. “Woo-hoo, the house is so clean today, honey! Congratulations! And happy International Women’s Day to you!” One must have a strong uterus to hear such patronizing. The first International Women’s Day was in 1911. A century has gone by, time to move on. Is there an international day that congratulates our darling husbands for helping around the house (other than by mowing the yard once a month)? No. Thanks, but no thanks.
This isn’t 1911 anymore and this is totally unacceptable. Why should women be treated like just another household appliance? But we’re not trying to pit women against their men. No, this is more about appearances: the idea that women in general are weak and brainless so they need guidance and leadership from their more righteous counterparts. Those wise men who get to determine what women can and cannot do as well as label what they are and are not. Expectations and clichés. For example, women who don’t wear makeup or heels, who dare to put on weight, or who don’t shave their legs every day, aren’t normal (whereas men can get away with very limited grooming). Feminism is a bad thing? Try sexism. We don’t assume all men are macho, nor do we expect them to be all gentlemen. (That is so cliché.) Men don’t have the monopoly of holding doors for women anymore, and it’s okay to share the bill at a restaurant. So why is the blame still on the wife when the house is a mess? Or on the woman when a baby is conceived?
But then again why should we stand (and march) for our rights when so many other women in other countries are much more oppressed than we are? As if we’re just being unnecessarily whiny. Emotional. PMS-y. As if women in the west should just remain grateful we can vote and drive. There’s a French saying for that and it goes like this: “Be beautiful and shut up.”
I know, right? A quiet woman. Very funny. Women now get educated and love to have their own opinion and stand for it (think Malala Yousafzai, Mother Teresa or Pocahontas). Considering that throughout human history, women weren’t educated at nearly the same rate as men have been, we’ve managed to catch up pretty damn fast (thank you Title IX!) Smart is the new sexy. Because if women don’t have the physical strength to get in a fistfight, they sure have found new ways to stand up together. Unity. Lightheartedness. Wit. Have you looked at the signs from those marches?
And what about humor? That seems to be one of the last frontiers in equality for women. And we get it that one or two hundred years ago women might not have the funniest material, especially if they were drawing it from their own lives. Imagine a female comedian from the past stepping onstage, slapping her knee and saying, “You know, my husband (the one I was forced to marry when I was 12), well he raped and beat me several times tonight. So I bled a lot and I miscarried!” (Drum roll, please!) So you’ll have to forgive women if they weren’t exactly amusing back in the day. But even now, it’s almost as though we have to approach humor on the down low and exchange our comedy through (illegal) joke trafficking at the end of a dark alley.
Caro: Psst! Hey, what do you got?
Michelle: Whatever you want. Chicken and the road? Knock knock jokes? Light bulb jokes?
Caro: Gimme a knock knock joke. Is it good?
Michelle: Wanna try it?
Caro: Yeah, hurry.
*Sirens wailing in the distance*
Caro: Oh shit, let’s get outta here!
Rebecca West said, “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” She must be rolling over in her grave a lot lately. But it’s true that it’s hard to pin down exactly what it means to be a feminist. It doesn’t just mean #GirlPower. It’s not about empowering women at the expense of men. And it certainly doesn’t mean hating men. (No, sir, gay women don’t hate men either, they just won’t have sex with you!)
Being a feminist means wanting equality between men and women. It means that women should have choices in their lives about what they want to have and be and do, exactly the same as we assume about men. There’s a name for it, it’s called respect. Men can be feminists, too. More of them should be. Women may have seen the light, but why are our men still stumbling around in the dark, stepping on metaphorical Legos every time they open their mouths?
They may or may not be lost causes, but don’t forget the biggest superpower that women possess: the ability to make people, especially in our own image. Just like we can get them to dance to our favorite 80s jams or root for our alma mater in football, kids also naturally adopt our values and beliefs. Call it benevolent brainwashing. So instead of signing your kids up for a weird cult, simply talk about the issues of feminism from a young age. And it may already seem intuitive to talk to our daughters about how they can grow up to be anything they want and do anything that boys can do. But we also need to remind our sons that even though their sisters may seem annoying now, they’re still equals and should always be treated that way. Also, don’t forget that the best way to put those values into practice is by being a role model; spouses have a say in this too. And if you’re still unsure about how to get started on turning your family into an team of feminists, remember: just treat women like any other (hu)man.
Featured image: International Business Times. Signs photos: Twitter.