In the wake of International Women’s Day, I am left with a flood of emotions. I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to scream. I am completely beside myself trying to make sense of all that I have seen and heard. It’s taken me a bit to calm my emotions and organize my thoughts, but I think I am finally ready to put them into words.
I am shocked to hear that women in the United States are not equal to men! How can this be true? Well, the short answer is – it’s NOT true. The notion is absurd. I don’t understand how people can make such accusations with a straight face. There is no country in the world where women have more rights and opportunities. The examples offered up to prove this “inequality” range from misguided to comical.
One such example that shattered my soul – is having to pay sales tax on tampons. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, this is somehow an egregious assault against women – though for the life of me, I don’t understand how. In most states, sales tax is only exempt on essential items; such as unprepared food (that you would starve to death without) – Or clothing that protects you from the elements (helping to keep you from becoming ill or even dying from exposure).
In order to give credence to the theory that this is a form of inequality and sexism, many 3rd generation “feminists” have started to claim that tampons are “essential” to women. I must have missed the course in biology that explains how a lack of tampons could cause physical harm or even death. The vital truth that is being glossed over is that tampons are a HYGIENE product! And hygiene products are NOT essential, just highly desired and recommended – particularly in first world countries like ours.
What would the outcome be if a woman was deprived of tampons or sanitary napkins? Well, once a month she would stain her clothing and linens with menstrual blood. Would these stains cause her clothing or bedding to stop functioning? Of course not. It would simply be embarrassing. Is that not the same outcome as failing to use most hygiene products?
Lack of deodorant would leave you smelling of B.O. Embarrassing. Lack of toothpaste would leave you with stained teeth and bad breath. Embarrassing. Lack of shampoo would leave you with greasy, limp hair. Embarrassing. Are you noticing a trend here? Because I could go on…
There are some states that do grant exemption for the sales tax on tampons – but it is NOT because those states consider tampons essential. Those states simply grant exceptions for many personal hygiene products. And as tampons are included in that list, there are no injustices being done to the female population.
Tragically, the logic gets stretched even thinner from there. I came across a very informative “article” on the subject that I would like to examine.
“32 Everyday Things Women Do That Men Don’t Have To Worry About – Tell us again how women are equal?” (find the article here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/everyday-things-women-do-that-men-dont-have-to-worry-about?utm_term=.tmRvxaw2J#.mkqrKQeRd )
The prevailing theme is almost exclusively fears and insecurities. It attempts to prove that women are not equal to men by citing specific examples of things that “women do” out of fear and insecurity, that supposedly “men don’t have to worry about”. I hate to break it to you, but women do NOT have a monopoly on fears and insecurities. It’s incredibly sexist and self-absorbed to assume that these are problems faced exclusively by women.
Perhaps the specific methods of dealing with their fears and insecurities take a slightly different form – but do you really think that a man walking through the city by himself doesn’t subtly look over his shoulder to see if he’s being followed? Do you really think that his stomach doesn’t tense up if he notices someone intimidating walking behind him? Do you really think he doesn’t start trying to prepare himself in case something bad happens? Maybe the reason you don’t think that men do these things is because you think men are “supposed to be tough”. It’s not socially acceptable for a man to show his fears and insecurities. And HIDING those fears and insecurities is something that men do that women don’t have to worry about.
Granted, he is probably not nearly as worried about getting raped as most women (although not as often, men DO get raped) – but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t fear for his safety or his life. Often times he also fears for the safety of his loved ones. Society tells him that he is supposed to “be the man” and protect his significant other and family members; and he worries constantly that he may not be strong enough to do so (another thing that men do that women don’t have to worry about). Brutal crimes happen every day and ALL people, regardless of gender, are potential victims.
Many of the other examples in that “article” are fears about things like speaking up at work or not being taken seriously. Again, this is not exclusive to women. This is a problem faced by all people who suffer from insecurity. There are many confident, strong-willed women out there – and there are many insecure and timid men. Anyone who doesn’t see that isn’t paying very close attention.
There is also talk about the wage gap – which on the surface seems like a very legitimate concern. But if you dig a little deeper, you will discover that it is a complete misrepresentation of statistics. It’s not comparing apples to apples. It does not directly compare how much women are being paid for the same job/position as men. It is the overall average that women in general make compared to the overall average that men in general make – and it leaves out a lot of relevant factors. (If you do a google search for “wage gap myth”, you will get hits from many reputable news sources explaining these factors. Personally, I think that Christina Hoff Sommers explains it best in this video: https://youtu.be/1oqyrflOQFc )
One thing that this “article” gets right is the societal pressure women feel to shave their legs and their armpits, to wear makeup and do their hair, to be beautiful and put together to be seen as a worthwhile person. Although, to be fair, a lot of that pressure actually comes from other women. I’m really not sure why, but as a whole, women have the tendency to be harder on other women than men are on other men. I believe it’s mostly born out of jealously and the misguided belief that tearing down someone else will make you feel better about yourself. But men DO experience these problems as well. Mostly over how “manly” and sexually prolific they are.
And the reverse side if this coin is quite an interesting phenomenon. Men are expected NOT to “primp” and take care of themselves the way that women do. Just think about it – what do people think and say about a man who shaves his legs or armpits? Who spends too much time doing his hair or who wears makeup? Who gets a manicure or who goes to a spa? These are things that a heterosexual man simply cannot do in our society. It becomes a lot trickier to place blame on men over the societal pressures women face once you take into account the societal pressures that men also face.
The thing that we all need to understand is that while there are many problems and situations that women typically face that men typically don’t (and we SHOULD be talking about those things and trying to fix them) – there are just as many problems and situations that men typically face that women typically don’t (and we should be talking about and trying to fix THOSE things as well). It’s called being DIFFERENT. And different is NOT the same as unequal.
This attitude being cultivated, that these differences are proof that women in this country are still so oppressed, has led to outright misandry. Men are being viewed as the ENEMY of women. People are even calling for stripping men of rights and privileges in the interest of making things “equal”. But if you push someone else down, you will be pulled down right along with them. Then you’ll both end up drowning. No good can ever come out of it.
There is a level of willful ignorance at work here. Many people don’t seem to understand that you will never convince someone to take your side by insulting them. You will never earn someone else’s respect by disrespecting them. You will never come across as strong by whining and complaining. You will never feel like someone’s equal if you treat them like they are inferior to you or owe you something. But those are the tactics being employed by this so-called “women’s movement” – and it has backfired horribly.
Instead of helping women, it is hurting them. Keep in mind, it’s not going to make men who already respect women start respecting them more. But it is going to make men who don’t respect women, respect them less. It has made women appear fragile, weak, and irrational. It has turned women against other women who disagree with the sentiments and/or tactics. And it has seriously contributed to the polarization of our country.
So, what exactly IS the intended goal of this “movement”? Are you hoping that the government will step in and dictate the thoughts and opinions of everyone? The government does not have the power to FORCE someone to respect you or consider you their equal. That is NOT something any of us are entitled to. A person’s OPINION of you has NOTHING to do with equal RIGHTS under the law. (A government trying to force peoples’ thoughts and opinions is fascism, BTW.)
If you want to change someone’s opinion about you for the better, you need to find a different tactic. You need to SHOW people you are strong. You need to have confidence in yourself and treat others with kindness and respect. As we all learned in kindergarten, you need to treat others as you want to be treated. You can only get what you give. And you also only deserve what you give.
Don’t get me wrong, there most assuredly are men in this country who do not view or treat women as their equals. They dismiss women. They disrespect them. They sexualize them. They demoralize them. It’s repugnant. These men do not deserve a women’s respect and a woman will probably never be able to gain theirs. Some people are just assholes who will disrespect you no matter what you do or say – and this applies to BOTH genders. This is not a matter of inequality, but rather a matter of human nature.
So, what can we do about all these problems that BOTH men and women face? The only things we can do is lead by example and try to teach the next generation to do better. And we can use International Women’s Day and International Men’s Day to help us do that. But it only works if we are all on the same team.
There was SO MUCH more I was going to say in this post. I was going to talk about the inequality and oppression of women all over the world as well as everyday circumstances that could be negative influences on young girls and what we can do about it… but this was so long already and I would have doubled it. Perhaps another post for another day.