Since International Women’s Day one week ago, I’ve had some time to reflect about some voices I read/heard questioning if women really experience inequality in North America.
What are we STILL going on about after all? You found some statistics that show that the pay gap might not be so bad, that there actually are a good amount of female CEO’s out there. Do we really need a third wave feminism when there are women who are far worse off in other countries?
Questioning women’s equality isn’t old news. Even in the suffragette days, women were being asked “don’t you have enough equality?” We let you go to school at Cornell (but not Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth or Columbia), attend graduate school (sometimes, if you’re not married), and ride in cars (not trains, for fear that the speed would make ones uterus fly out).
I recently went to a workshop about intersectional feminism put on by Luciterra Dance Company and facilitated by Athena Affan that finally gave me a good response other than severe frustration to comments like those above.
The workshop talked about feminism in terms of levels of privilege. This was very humbling to me when I realized how much privilege I DO have in my day to day life, and how that shapes my view of feminism. I’m white, able-bodied, I fit the BMI standards, I’m straight.
Other than being female, I fit what society deems as the cream of the crop, the normalized ideal. If I can still see systematic short comings that women experience, can you imagine what it feels like to be a woman less privileged? If you were gay, Muslim, over or under weight, disabled, black, any of that combination.
The summary of this exercise was to step back and realize that there is subtle (or not so subtle) discrimination that even I as a woman can’t see.
Where I experience privilege, I have blind spots.
This makes sense as to why some men who fit the “idealized view” can’t see those subtleties, the things that can’t be quantified in statistics.
Over the summer, I was lucky enough to work for the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association. While I was representing the organization with a colleague at an event (see dream team photo below), a middle aged man came up to us to chat. When he found out our positions at the DNBIA, he was flabbergasted. He asked us: “How did you get those jobs? Did your dads put in a word for you or something?”
At the start of my career, this was the first time that someone questioned my right to hold the position I had. Feminism isn’t about burning our bras and trying to be all powerful, part of it is trying to break perceptions like this mans: That we can *actually* achieve things on our own merits and have it be normal to do so.
Yes, this was a very “first world” problem and women in many other countries DO struggle more than in North America, but who’s in the power positions to try to combat this? They are suppressed by the people at the top of the power structures in their society.
A good example brought up by the workshop leader was about Justin Trudeau, a self-declared feminist. After women had been fighting for years to have gender equality in government positions, what does Trudeau do? At the snap of a finger he created a gender equal cabinet.
Women had been fighting for this for so long, but it still took a man at the top of the power structure to enact it. Thankfully women have some allies like Trudeau, but god knows we could use more.
To come full circle, can you imagine if women had true equality in North America? If there were more opportunities for women of different races, sexualities, religions etc. to have a seat at the table, what we could do to improve the situations of women who are less fortunate? We could very quickly work to create equality WORLD WIDE (dreaming big here).
Until that can be worked on without prejudice or discrimination, women in North America are still not equal, and we will continue to advocate *silently screams DOWN WITH THE PATRIARCHY*.