Don't Tell American Women to Shut Up About Sexism

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For some reason, people often tell American women that they can't speak out against sexism because someone always has it worse. Women in America should just be grateful, the saying goes, because in certain other countries they wouldn't even have all the freedoms they have here. As Jessica Valenti wrote in The Guardian when she tackled this topic, "Apparently women don’t have the right to complain about discrimination unless it’s explicit and international."

It's true that the United States affords many basic human rights that women are denied in other countries: more than 90 percent of Egyptian women experience genital mutilation, according to the country's health ministry. Until recently, that act was only classified as a misdemeanor. In Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women are victims of so-called "honor killings" each year, according to Pakistani rights group the Aurat Foundation.

However, that oppression isn't an argument against addressing the sexism American women do experience. Imagine if you went to the doctor with a broken arm, and he refused to fix it because "some people have cancer, and that's worse."

In the United States, 23 percent of female college students report having experienced sexual assault, according to a study by the Association of American Universities. America is one of only four countries in the world — four! — without paid maternity leave, and the only industrialized nation. Women are extremely underrepresented at every level of American government, and I believe the first viable female presidential candidate was eviscerated by sexism from the left and sexism from the right.

I am no longer sure I will see a female president in my lifetime.

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True, we should celebrate how far we've come on our path towards equality and help women who are even further behind. And we do: on Election Day, women throughout the country thanked Susan B. Anthony and Ida B. Wells. But we also shouldn't accept "close to equal" status.

The reason more than 3 million women and allies took to the streets last Saturday is because American women know we still have a long way to go before we're treated equally. Sexism is a real and pressing problem, and it's exacerbated by the incoming administration. Our 45th male president is a man who has both been accused of and bragged about sexual assault (He has firmly and consistently denied those allegations).

Unfortunately, many American women are getting the wrong message from Trump's victory.

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Of all votes, female Trump voters had the highest level of anti-woman bias in a recent study by HCD Research — even higher than male Trump voters. A new study published by the journal Science shows that girls as young as 6 years old believe that boys are inherently smarter and more talented. One of the reasons that addressing sexism is so important is that many women — American women — don't even realize that their abilities are equal to men's.

The answer to the "American women should be grateful" charge is simple: Just because the United States is closer to gender equality than some other countries doesn't mean we're there yet, either.

A woman in the developing world may experience even more egregious sexism than I do, but I believe a man in the United States still has it better than both of us.