This is an essay I wrote for my humanities class, but I really liked it, so I wanted to share it with you. I removed the in text citations from within the work to make it easier to read, but all the authors are credited in the work and I added links to the mentioned articles at the end. I have been avoiding this topic for a long time out of fear of leaving something out, but I think I covered a lot, I might add more installments later.
“Feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”
-Emma Watson, United Nations Speech for the He for She campaign
Feminism has become a scary word in today’s society. People of every gender are scared to use it based on the connotation it carries; the “man-hating” persona given to the word makes few want to associate themselves with it. People think that every feminist is a man hater, an idea that needs to be crushed, but in order to do that, everyone must understand how feminism benefits them as an individual—and it does benefit everyone, as long as it is the right kind of feminism. Feminism, as any of the –isms, has its own internal problems, like actual man-hating people, or White Feminists (those who believe that all women are equal to men, as long as those women are white), or ignoring the issues trans people face, or disabled women, or first world centered feminism, or, or, or; I could continue for a while.
I am a relatively lucky woman. I will get paid substantially more than my colored, female colleagues. I will not be sold off for marriage; I was not forced to marry as I child, and it is much less likely for me to be sold in a human trafficking ring. I was born with less money than most, but not so little that I was forced to sell my body or move drugs. There are so many horrors around the world that women face that I could not begin to even imagine. I am incredibly lucky; however, that does not mean I have not experienced sexism. I attended a science and technology-based high school, a school that, while maintaining a fairly even boy to girl ratio, always seemed dominated by males. I ran the school robotics club, receiving many animadversions from the room full of males that I had to teach how to solder. Between my high school and this technology based college, I have noticed a trend of males pushing aside girls in lab classes. In my labs, my ideas are ignored and my attempts to accomplish any of the set tasks are often shut down. It is not just school; this trend can often be found in my job. I have spent my entire life working as a stagehand in a theatre. It is a job that requires quite a lot of strenuous activity, but some of my fellow crew still treat me like I am made of glass. I have proved myself to them time and time again, yet I am pushed aside in favor of weaker males constantly. There is also the rampant everyday sexism found in things like having no control over my own body—the government controls these rights, especially when it comes to my reproductive rights like abortion or access to birth control—the pink tax, and so many more issues.
Articles about things like the baby penalty or the pink tax or the wage gap or any other feminist buzz words always make me quite angry. Whether it be due to misinformation within the articles—normally due to the aforementioned issues with feminism—or the simple fact that these articles have to exist, I am always frustrated and more often than not annoyed by these articles. Luckily with Mary Ann Mason’s “The Baby Penalty,” I was angry for the latter reason. I was angry that an article like this needs to exist. The fact that we live in 2015 and childbirth is still getting in the way of women’s careers is upsetting. What made me the angriest about the article was where it explained that while having a family hinders a woman’s career, it actually enhances a man’s. This might not seem accurate; however, research shows that “family formation negatively affects women’s—but not men’s—academic careers. For men, having children can be a slight career advantage and, for women, it is often a career killer.”
Women are still expected to take care of their family more than men are to the extent that people think women are incapable of doing their jobs and our only talent is raising a family. Yes, it enhances males’ careers because of another problem perpetuated by the patriarchy; namely, men are expected to be the ones to make the money for their family. So women cannot get ahead in their fields due to the same misogyny that pushes men ahead while setting unfair expectations for both. This is a system that puts unnecessary pressure on men while squandering women’s potential in the process. It is ridiculous and unfair to all parties. It also does not make any sense. Homosexuality is greatly discouraged by society, yet men in the work force are expected to have a family to be successful and women are not. So, who are these men supposed to be having families with if not the women or the men? The numbers just do not work out there, especially when, in America, the current population is 49.2% assigned male at birth and 50.8% people assigned female at birth. No matter how you spin those numbers, there is no way that works out in anyone’s favor.
“What About the Boys?” by Michael S Kimmel discusses how sexism affects boys, reviewing the “boy code.” This is just another part of the system that unfairly pressures men while oppressing women. Throughout their lives, boys “possessed of this false voice of bravado (and many facing strong family pressure) are likely to over-value their abilities, to remain in programs though they are less qualified and capable of succeeding,” therefore pushing out females who could potentially succeed in the jobs in which they are failing at, while simultaneously making themselves miserable. This puts everyone at a disadvantage. Women who could be making important discoveries in science fields are ignored in favor of males less competent in those specific fields, stunting the growth of society while making everyone involved absolutely miserable.
Everyone is affected by sexism, whether they realize it or not. Some may claim to have never experienced sexism, but they are likely overlooking some of their experiences, since many sexist scenarios are often passed off as “just the way things are.” That’s just the problem. No one should be used to being treated as inferior due to their outward appearance; moreover, no one should have to be so accustomed to it that they barely notice. Even if there is a person out there who can accurately claim to not be affected by sexism, they should still be a feminist. They should be a feminist for those who do experience sexism, all sorts, from the microcosmic scenarios, like being ignored in the classroom, to the bigger things, like being completely silenced, harassed, and abused. No one has an excuse to not be a feminist anymore. Yes, some have soured the word, but that does not mean we should stop fighting for equality, for ourselves, and for those who really need it.
Everyone who believes in equal rights between the sexes needs to start calling themselves a feminist; it is what we are. In the words of Aziz Ansari on “Late Show,”
“I feel like if you do believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes, because that is how words work. You can’t be like, ‘Oh yeah I’m a doctor that primarily does diseases of the skin.’ Oh, so you’re a dermatologist? ‘Oh no, that’s way too aggressive of a word! No no not at all not at all.’”
“The Baby Penalty” http://chronicle.com/article/The-Baby-Penalty/140813/
“What About The Boys?” http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=mfsfront;c=mfs;c=mfsfront;idno=ark5583.0014.001;g=mfsg;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1