The last few weeks have been a flurry of feminist outrages from Marissa Mayer bringing down the axe on telecommuting at Yahoo! to The Onion calling an Oscar-nominated nine-year-old the c-word for laughs. We’re debating the value of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” movement while the Arkansas legislature bans abortion after 12 weeks. We don’t have fair pay and it took the House of Representatives an unseemly amount of time to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act because politicking on issues regarding the health and safety of women is a sure-fire attention getter for media-hungry legislators.
All of which is to say that women are still being treated as a discrete group, a special interest lobby and an unpopular one at that. Women are still considered “other.” Women are not citizens in the same way (white) (straight) men are citizens.
Why the hell is that the case?
I’m an American. I was born here, raised here, came into adulthood here. I vote and pay taxes and avail myself of such collective services as I need. There should be no daylight between anyone’s attitude toward me and their attitude for my husband who fits the exact same profile.
But there is daylight. No one is urging men to lean in. No one is frolicking on stage singing about what body parts men have revealed on film. No one is debating the impact of telework on men. No one questions whether a man who is physically harmed should be able to access services in the aftermath. No one targets men in their attempts to police sexual acts. No one is legislating access to men’s reproductive healthcare out of existence.
It’s been almost 100 years since women got the right to vote. We are full citizens with all the rights and privileges thereof and yet we’re still only valued at 77 cents on the dollar and we’re regarded as a strident special interest. I. Am. Sick. Of. It.
I don’t want to fight these fights any more. These fights should be finished by now. There should be no need for women to still be struggling for societal approval for going to work, having children, exercising sexual autonomy, seeking success, making art, receiving justice. We are citizens. Our motives do not need questioning. We are simply acting as Americans act.
Here’s the deal: feminism and its goals are good for America. If it’s good for women it is probably also good for men. The equal treatment of women – and minorities, and gay people – does not mean unequal treatment for straight, white men. Equal opportunity means EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Once your grasp that simple concept, it makes every attempt to marginalize women or any other group seem unpatriotic.
We are not a land of equal opportunity. Not even close. We have institutional barriers to success for minority groups and women that are as deeply entrenched as an iceberg. And so I have to keep being a feminist, chipping away at the ice from the tip down because if I don’t do it, it will be left for my daughter to do. That’s not what I want for her. I want her to choose her issues based on passion, not self defense. I’ll be a feminist so she can simply be an activist.