So facebook, amirite? Facebook. It’s a roiling sea of poorly-thought-out opinions, my own included. In the middle of a discussion about women playwrights (blog post coming soon), someone said that she’s not a feminist because women are “different,” and that we are “not equal” to men.
After I found my eyeballs and put them back into their sockets like a Tex Avery cartoon, I wondered if maybe she and I are just defining the term “equal” differently. What is “equal”? And can difference preclude that? Sure, there are ways in which difference can create inequality. Almost every human on the planet is a better athlete than I am. They are better; I am inferior; there is undeniable inequality there.
When we’re talking about gender equality, though, we’re talking about cultural equality and civil rights, where “equal” means “equal under the law” and “of equal worth.” Of course we’re not fully there yet; I know that. In a world where women still make 81 cents when a man in the same position makes a dollar, where 81% of all male faculty in the US are tenure-track or tenured as opposed to a measly 68% of female faculty (fully 32% of female faculty are lecturers– academic temps), where a woman CEO of a major corporation is as rare as the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field (NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS), we clearly have yet to achieve cultural equality. And when everyone down at the courthouse barely had a single fuck to give when my husband and I picked up our marriage license, but would have rung the HOMO ALARM had my betrothed been female, we have some progress to make regarding gender under the law. And pause for a moment to remember just how privileged cisgendered women are, despite our struggles.
But we ARE making progress.
I suppose it’s no surprise that a woman whose mother subscribed to Ms Magazine in the 70s and taught her who Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis were before she could walk has no problem proclaiming herself a feminist. The surprise to me is why YOU DON’T, people.
Sure, women are different, I guess, in the aggregate. And there are plenty of things about me that conform to the stereotypical woman’s role. I loved being pregnant. I love to bake. I take pride in making seder. I also love to be in charge of shit and, honestly, I’m damn good at it. I don’t usually wear make up, I spend way too much of my free time on the xbox, I swear like 100 sailors, and I would rather listen to five hours of jackhammering than watch fourteen seconds of Sex and the City.
But “different” doesn’t mean “unequal.” When you say “I am a feminist,” what you’re saying is “I believe women should be treated equally, both under the law and culturally: That women should earn as much as men; that women’s stories are as important as men’s; that women should be considered equally for jobs and promotions.”
The tenure thing expressly pisses me off, yes, partly because I’ve been a dramatically underemployed lecturer for eleventy scrotillion years while watching men with less education and experience get tenure, but mostly because the gender breakdown of underpaid, overworked academic temps known as lecturers (who make less than the people working at the campus Starbucks) weighs heavily to WOMEN, while the gender breakdown of the people with tenured positions making twice what we make (to start) weighs heavily to MEN. Bear in mind that women earn 52% of the PhDs awarded each year, corresponding neatly to our percentage of the population. And yet we’re still largely held down into temp positions while the men around us land tenure-track positions in numbers that far outweigh their representation in the population.
But I digress.
YES, women are different than men, sometimes. Maybe most of the time. I’m interested in the neurology about gender. I still find babies miraculous and pregnant women enthralling and special. But women are not BETTER than men, nor are men BETTER than women, and if you think so, it’s a matter of opinion. Also, you are awful.
So what is a “feminist”? I gave it away in the headline, so if you made it this far, I SALUTE YOU. I hope you don’t feel cheated.
“Feminism” is the belief that women are people, and, as people, are as important as men, regardless of any differences, and deserve equal protection under the law. (Recommended reading: The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.)
YOU ARE A FEMINIST. Boom. What? BOOM.