The women’s rights movement has been well under way for more than a century.
As the White House website points out, the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848. Also referenced on that website, the National Women’s Trade Unit League was formed and advocated for equality in women’s pay. The first birth control clinic was opened by a woman in the year 1916. Women have been allowed to vote since 1920, and federal laws stopped declaring information on birth control obscene in 1936.
Yet here we are, in 2012, and we’re still debating women’s health and women in the workforce — because as a society we seem to not want to acknowledge the shocking fact that women are people, too.
During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama discussed pay equality for women. Neither candidate’s approach to the question of women’s issues offended me more personally as a young woman than the fact that the question was posed in the first place, much less to two men who have no credibility on the subject of women’s rights at all. We hear less about “men’s health issues,” and nobody talks about men in the workforce because we see those things as general health issues and general issues with the workforce. The fact that we have to specify that we’re talking about women is evidence of a societal idea that women are second-class citizens.
And that is completely unacceptable, no matter what political party you align with.
The scariest part of this whole weird, stupid issue is that there’s really no easy solution. If more women were involved in politics, I truly believe there would be less of a debate surrounding issues such as birth control and the availability of health services specific to women. But what about issues like equal pay for women and the role of women in the workforce? What would it take to change our mind as a nation about the idea of equality for women?
I’m a feminist because I think all women are just as awesome as men, and I demand that we all be treated as such. There are enormous social and political issues in which misogyny plays a key role in keeping women in a status of being a second-class citizens, misogyny can easily creep into personal and social situations on a daily basis.
The interpersonal misogyny and misogyny related to what we consider to be “feminine” taste or traits is the type of misogyny that can cause the greatest amount of discomfort and anxiety in young women, particularly in college. This definitely has a huge influence on the way women are perceived on a larger scale.
Internalized misogyny and subconscious misogyny has a lot to do with the negative connotations that go along with being a woman and a feminist.
There’s a stupid meme that blew up online a few months ago in which a young lady made some quasi-cute faces and posed in four different frames that read, “Hey girls, did you know...that umm, your boobs go inside your shirt.”
I can’t count the number of Facebook statuses I’ve read in which college women and men alike complain that they see other women wearing a ton of makeup or dressed in a certain way that they find disagreeable. It’s impossible to go to a party without hearing someone whispering in the corner about the way another woman — a woman who usually looks pretty good — is dressed.
But don’t these young women see that rejecting a girl based upon the overtly feminine way she presents herself and slut shaming bring down our solidarity as a gender and diminish our credibility when we say we want women to be taken seriously in society?
Don’t these young men see that the way a woman chooses to live her life is absolutely none of their business?
Women are women, and our rights as human beings should not be based upon whether we choose to exhibit very feminine or decidedly non-feminine traits. We’re all just people.
If our peers can’t accept that, it’s going to be really hard for our superiors to accept it, too. Equality has to start somewhere.
I long for a day when women receive equal pay. I can’t wait to read an article about a woman involved in politics that doesn’t mention her outfit or describe her hair. I will kick up my heels in delight when I watch a presidential debate that doesn’t involve two men talking about what prescriptions I should or should not be taking. I will be as happy as can be when presidential candidates don’t have to pander for my vote specifically as a woman because I will just be seen as a voter and an equal citizen with the same rights and interests as a man.
Until we can all learn to treat women with the respect they deserve, pander away, politicians. But know that pandering to women is just a cleverly disguised form of discrimination — and some of us really resent you for it.
Sarah Moesta is a junior majoring in English and is the Daily Collegian’s Friday columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org