Share These News Stories The Next Time Someone Tells You Sexism Is Over
Many men, and even some women, claim we live in a post-sexist society. Well, all you have to do is open a newspaper or a browser tab to prove this isn't the case. There are countless news stories to share when someone tells you sexism is over. It's true that the myth that sexism is dead may lie in some people's perception of the definition of the word; depending on how they grew up, they may not see certain gender roles as sexist, but rather as "traditional." The trouble is, this thinking is inherently sexist because equality for women is about choice, not tradition. If someone wants to engage in something that's a traditional gender role, they can choose to do so; when they're forced into engaging in it or do it because they feel they have no other option, that's when it becomes a problem.
Speaking of tradition, when I was in high school I took a class called consumer skills that taught us how to do things like balance a budget, apply for a job, and write checks. As part of the class, we also studied a 1960s home economics book that — and I am not kidding here — instructed a woman how to behave to please her husband. The book detailed how the woman should greet her man at the door with a drink. She should look nice, and pinch her cheeks for some fresh color so she appeared pleasing to the eye. After her man was settled with his drink, the woman was to ask him about his day, nod, and smile.
Any problems she had were to be kept to herself because the man had been out in the big important world, and anything he had to say was inherently more important. I don't know how more women didn't end up in a room peeling yellow wallpaper under this suffocating social structure.
The good news: We have made progress since the 1960s; indeed, a recent National Election Survey reports that 47 percent of men believe women have equal opportunities, and 11 percent believe women do not experience any discrimination. The bad news: A spate of recent news stories prove that we're a long way from being equal. Here are a few of the most infuriating stories to share the next time someone tells you sexism is over. Feel free to express your outrage when you read these headlines.
1. "Real Men Provide, Real Women Appreciate It"
A billboard has popped up on a North Carolina Highway that reads: "Real Men Provide, Real Women Appreciate It." This statement is the definition of sexism. The wording implies that in order to be a "real woman" you must be dependent on a man, and rely on an outdated social structure for your identity. What's more, it imparts a message of toxic masculinity to men, and completely erases people of every other gender between or outside the binary.
Buying into the 1950s norm that men are providers and women should be stoking the home fires is just another way to oppress women. By relying on men to provide, women give up all of their autonomy. Now, there is nothing wrong with allowing someone to provide for you, if you choose that. Choice is the key word. Anyone who is forced into a social structure against their will is oppressed.
Furthermore, it appears that the organization that paid for the billboard is aware of how off message their sign is since they asked not to be identified. People are rightfully outraged by the sign, and a peaceful protest is planned, according to the New York Daily News.
2. "Equal Pay for Women Has Consequences"
White women still only earn about 75 percent that which white men earn for the same work; black women still only earn 63 percent; and Hispanic or Latina women still only earn 54 percent, according to the AAUW — despite the fact that it's 2017, and having a Y chromosome in no way entitles someone to make more money for doing the same job. Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone understands this concept. In a letter published in two local Utah newspapers, a GOP official suggested the Equal Pay bill should be dropped from consideration for two reasons: Because women being paid more would result in men being paid less; and because a woman's place is in the home with the kids.
James C. Green wrote: "Here's the problem with the Equal Pay bill being considered by the Utah Legislature... Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families. They need to make enough to support their families and allow the Mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children."
Does Green know it's 2017? Because, for a moment, I thought I was reading a letter to the editor from 1955.
Fortunately, though, the internet rightfully lit up in protest, so at least there's that.
3. Women Who Oppose Trump "Have a Problem With Women In Power”
OK, let's break this one down. Women who oppose Trump — who has, by the way, bragged about being able to "grab [women] by the p*ssy" — apparently have a problem with women in power. Are you scratching your head yet?
According to an article on Vox, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a gathering of conservative political activists and operatives: “One thing that’s been a little bit disappointing and revealing and that I hope will get better is, turns out that a lot of women just have a problem with women in power."
She then proceeded to praise Trump for his treatment of women in the workplace (she must not have heard about the whole p*ssy-grabbing thing), and reduced the Women's March (the biggest collective protest in U.S. history) to women gossiping about each other.
Conway is right that many people, including women, have a hand in oppressing women. However, stating that it's women who oppose Trump who don't support women in power just isn't true. An overwhelming number of Trump opposers supported Hillary Clinton's bid for president, and oppose Trump for, among other things, his disparaging comments about women.
4. Trump's Health Insurance Pick Actually Thinks Maternity Leave Coverage Should Be Optional
For me, the most upsetting form of sexism comes at the hands of other women. Case in point: During Seema Verma's Senate Finance Committee hearings last week, Verma, Donald Trump's nominee for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, made comments suggesting that insurance companies contracted with the Affordable Care Act shouldn't be required to offer maternity care as a required benefit.
Here's what I wrote about it at the time:
What's tricky about the way she phrased these comments, though, is that she presented it as a choice — an optional piece of coverage people who might become pregnant can choose to purchase if they want. But here's the thing: According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost 45 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, so unless you have a crystal ball, you could potentially be one of the 45 percent. With odds like these, having maternity care as part of your healthcare plan is essential, not optional. Women's healthcare as a whole is essential, not optional — and policies that treat it otherwise are only going to hurt us all in the end.
The United States already has the worst maternity policies in the developing world, and this is another devastating blow for women's rights.
5. The Silencing of Elizabeth Warren
Women being told to "know their place" is nothing new in our culture. However, a public government display of this behavior in 2017 is chilling. During a debate over Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions' Cabinet confirmation , Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren from speaking out against the controversial attorney general nominee.
Warren was interrupted and was not allowed to continue her remarks as she expressed concern for Sessions' behavior toward black Americans. Rule 19 was cited as the reason for cutting Warren off. According to Senate's committee on rules and administration, senators are not allowed to "impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator."
When she was interrupted, Warren was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 to oppose Sessions' nomination to a federal judgeship, which does not qualify as Warren making inappropriate remarks about Sessions. Additionally, the outdated Rule 19 has been only selectively enforced in the past.
6. Girls Should be Silent; Boys Should be Strong
Kids look up to sports figures and celebrities, which is why Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly telling a group of elementary school kids that girls should be silent and boys should be strong is particularly damaging. Winston later explained, "I was making an effort to interact with a young male [sic] in the audience who didn't seem to be paying attention, and I didn't want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up. During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some." But as Jeanna Thomas points out on SB Nation, the damage has already been done — to girls, who receive the message that they should sit down and be silent, and to boys, who have seen an "unhealthy and wrong perspective of women reinforced for them by an NFL quarterback."
So next time someone flippantly tells you sexism is over, share these stories with them. Unfortunately these seven stories are just a few examples of how far we have to go in the fight for women's rights.