Why do we still need to empower women, you might ask. To answer this question, I’ll leave you with this article I wrote, below, for you to get a sense. This is only the tip of the iceberg here in the United States. In other countries, there are further obstacles still, that leave women disenfranchised and violated.
But the potential for the whole world to benefit from women being empowered and given basic human rights is tremendous: Women’s empowerment is the key way to combat global poverty, it makes economic sense, and it is a fundamental human right, just to name a few reasons.
Whether you are new to understanding the need for women’s empowerment worldwide, or are already an avid seeker of justice, read onward and delve into new perspectives, serious events and sometimes funny yet poignant articles on this blog.
This is What U.S Society Looks Like When you Switch the Genders
As I pondered the inequities of our world, I thought: How simple, and informative, would it be if I laid out how our society currently functions, but switched the sexes? I figured this perspective could offer a window into the world we live in.
I decided to write this, keeping in mind my lovely guy friends, because they are all pretty feminist. But it is hard for them to see just how imbalanced societal structures currently are and the negative impact this has on women. Inequities range from sexual abuse to unattainable beauty standards. To some, the inequalities naively seem small. But as Marilyn Frye essentially points out: It is not the single wire that cages the bird, but the multiplicity of wires. “If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires…It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere… It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers.. [that] are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon.”
My article is addressed to “you” or the hypothetical guy, because there appears to be a misunderstanding of just how intertwined these wires and social injustices are. Whether they range from big to small problems, each imbalance creates fractures in women’s daily lives.
[Side note: In this article I simplified it to just male and female genders, but keep in mind, gender, and sexuality, are a colorful spectrum with people falling all along the colorful rainbow.]
I find it very demonstrative just how absurd our societal imbalance is today when you look at it from this perspective. So imagine this: no, really imagine this.
You live in a world where the overwhelming majority of politicians are women. Nearly all the doctors, lawyers, philosophers, police officers, religious leaders, historians, scientists, film producers, writers, musicians and journalists are all women. So, nearly all the most influential and powerful people on the planet are women while men are on the periphery.
The female politicians pass laws to regulate men’s reproductive systems; their vas deferens, semen, penis and testicles. Men’s private bodies become political debate. The female doctors are an authority over you. The female lawyers create laws that affect you and get the person who assaulted you acquitted. In-fact, the person who assaulted you goes free while everyone around you condemns you, calling you a liar.
The female philosophers have hypothesized that men are inferior to women. Some of the men even internalize this idea, and start to think that maybe they are inferior to women, even though this is not true. The female police officers sexually harass and grope you. The female religious leaders say God is female and men are the “other”. This is a particularly impactful part of society, yet is never acknowledged.
The female historians only write about their own lives and victories. The female scientists study men from afar, and treat the male body as strange. The female producers create TV shows and movies only about women’s lives, albeit sometimes throwing in a token male character (preferably a black male so as to have a token minority too.) Once in a while though, the female film producers will create a story about what they presume men must think or feel, known as a dick-flick. Otherwise, men only have female movies and TV shows available to watch. Everyone in the society consciously and subconsciously molds their perceptions around what they see in this female-dominated media.
Female writers write books about their perspectives and hypothesize occasionally what the “other” gender might think. Musicians sing songs and rap about man-hoes and how men are only good for licking pussy and taking out the trash. Meanwhile, the female journalists almost exclusively tell stories about important events revolving around other women. Men are indeed on the periphery.
All the while, as young boys grow up, they are told through persistent media messaging that the most important thing they have to offer to themselves and to the world is how handsome they are and how sexually attractive they are to women. Messages tell men that one day, they’ll need to land a wife, and she’ll want him to look perfect all the time. And he better not “effeminate” her by being smarter than her.
The craziest part: This is so normal in the society that men internalize these ideas in one way or another. Many men’s own personal thought processes begin to revolve around trying to look and act a certain way to please others to the point that there is hardly time for anything else. Many of the men are so consumed with trying to be handsome and to fit an ideal body type that they have very little time to make worldly accomplishments or even feel confident in who they are or how they look. While there is nothing wrong with men looking handsome or sexy, it becomes the only outlet for them to express themselves.
Amazingly enough, against all odds, the men start to think that maybe they too can be philosophers, scientists and historians, and write their own stories. The men start to speak up and demand respect for their human right to control their own bodies. They want to have a voice and place in the world outside the home too. But oddly enough, this feels strange to the women and they shut it down. Advancing in society is hard for men when they have to get past the Old Girl’s Clubs. The women, and even the men, take part in diminishing their fellow men, by condemning any terms associated with equality. Equal rights gets a bad rap and men continue to live in the shadow of women.
Look at how screwed up this would be. And yet, this is the world we live in. This shift in perspective shows the absurd societal imbalances of power that women face today. Both Men and many women are part of the problem, and both men and women can be part of the solution for creating gender equality.
There are massive changes that need to take place. It is a gradual and steady climb to creating balance. But once we obtain gender equality we can engage our full potential brain-power as humans (and not just the male half of the population) to better confront worldly challenges like climate change and poverty. But we cannot do it with an entire half of the world population being left out of the equation. We need to start with raising-up women. There needs to be a better balance in our societies, because, as you can see from imagining a world where women run everything, the imbalance that exists in reality, is a strange imbalance that needs to be addressed. Women need to be just as much a part of politics, science, history, religion, media and everything in between.
So what’s the fix? Replace toxic media messaging with empowering stories and images from both (and all) genders. Bring to light issues in inequality and nurture a society full of education. We need to value girls and women for their full potential and diverse interests and boys and men need to be brought up with internalizing the human value of women instead of making women the “other.” And most importantly, we need to demand, create and implement policies and educational systems that reflect this level of respect and equality so generations grow up with equality as the norm: This means, as a start, having history classes about women, women’s and gender studies courses and education about toxic media messaging (and how to stop it.) We need comprehensive sex education! And men need to be valued for their full potential too: As nurturers and caregivers also.
All of these policies and educational systems need to become prevalent until it is normal for all sides to participate fully in society. After all, doesn’t that make sense? Both women and men (and everyone in between) deserve the right to control their bodies and have their voices heard. They deserve to be respected, participating members of history and society. It is shocking that such a societal imbalance persists to this day… but it doesn’t have to continue.
(Originally written by Julia and posted on Feministing.com)