I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism lately, particularly in light of the #YesAllWomen campaign. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re in trouble. All of us. We’ve become complacent. And that sucks.
I suddenly hang out with a lot of women in their early 20s. They are smart, sharp and afraid. They tell me that they can’t walk the streets alone during the day without being harassed. When they go to college they are given classes instructing them on how not to be raped. That they can’t walk alone at night.
What the hell? Wasn’t it more than 30 years ago when the “Take Back the Night” demonstrations happened all over the country? When women and men banded together and held rallies to protest that it was unsafe for women to walk at night? Wasn’t it supposed to be better by now?
If so why are we still blaming victims? Woman who are assaulted are bombarded with stupid questions: What we were you wearing? What were you doing there? How could you have let this happen?
It’s all part of the blame game that we are all so good at in this country. Like Ann Hornaday, the ignorant “Washington Post” writer who blamed Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow for the murderous creature who went on a rampage in Santa Barbara last month, no one wants to put the responsibility where it belongs: on the perpetrators. Who we passively encourage.
Anybody who has been alive in the last 10, oh hell, 30 years, knows that there is an aura of entitlement that surrounds some people. They believe that what they want is what they should get and there should be no discussion about it. That they deserve whatever they want. Maybe it comes from growing up with helicopter parents and from receiving trophies simply for participation. These people have never had anyone say no to them. When it finally happens, it isn’t received well.
Sometimes it ends in rape. Sometimes it ends in murder.
None of this is to say that we haven’t made great strides since feminism last made headlines. For instance, women in the US can vote. We can also work—granted we make $.77 for every dollar a man makes, but we can get a job. Almost any job.
The problem is that feminism has gone underground. It’s not news that the phrase ‘feminist’ has taken on negative connotations. We can thank the right wing conservatives for that. They’ve blathered for years that anyone who called her or himself a feminist is not just looking for equal rights for women, but out to ruin the very structure of our country and our culture. The term ‘feminazi’ is a favorite of Rush, O’Reilly and their followers. It stinks.
Because of this women will often say ‘I’m not a feminist, but…” Of course this is somewhat a matter of semantics. It doesn’t matter what they call themselves, if they actually act like feminists. But they’re not.
The war on women is real. All over the country laws have been enacted that have attacked women’s health and reproductive rights. None of the elected officials who have pushed these new laws hid their views and plans. In fact, most campaigned on them. Yet women voted for them. This may be due to the general voter apathy in this country, but still.
There is also a feeling that women no longer have any legitimate reason to complain. I was talking with a young man recently who told me in no uncertain terms that women rule the world. His reasoning? He believes that men will do whatever a woman wants them to do. You know, the myth of the woman behind the man in command. He was deadly serious. And he thinks that it’s perfectly fine.
He’s not alone. Which is terrifying. Particularly when it comes down to one thing: power.
The laws that restrict women’s health care, say women are too weak to control their own bodies. The laws that prevent women from earning the same as a man doing the same job send the message that a woman work is not as valuable. Even if it’s the same.
It also means that the fact that women are still afraid to walk alone—in the day or night—isn’t going to change any time soon.
So what exactly have we accomplished in the last 50 years? I’m not so sure.