Do we even need feminism?

Spoiler: yes.

Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and raping women yesterday. I don’t know a single woman who wasn’t absolutely astounded he was convicted. We had, of course, all hoped for that, but our experience up to this point was to be expect that he would be let off on a lesser charge, or the case dismissed, or, or, or.

I’ve said this before, but in the entire history of humans, at no point has a dominant group spontaneously given equal voice to a less powerful group. It just doesn’t happen. Wars are fought to keeep it from happening. Wars are fought to make sure that it will happen.

I’ve said this before, but as recently as 1974, a woman couldn’t get a credit card without her father or husband being the cosignator. In 2012, it was found that women still pay a higher percentage rate on credit cards than men. As late as 1978, a women could be fired simply for being pregnant. Of course, that still happens, despite the law. In 2017, a friend of mine went to an audition that called for a middle-aged wife. She’s in her 40s, so she figured it was worth stretching a little to play slightly older. She was turned away because when they said “middle-aged” they meant 35 or younger.

Women and girls also deal with harassment that white men don’t. I’m not sure I know a woman who hasn’t been harassed. And in domestic violence cases, women are discredited and disbelieved because of victim-shaming. I know a young woman, just 20 years old, who is getting a second divorce because her husband is erratic and has violent outbursts (and also has been openly sleeping around), but she’s afraid of family court, because they have been disproportionally critical of her (with very real legal consequences) in the past. She’s sure that she won’t be treated fairly. She’s very probably right.

Women at work aren’t treated equally, either. Besides being fired for getting pregnant, women who go on maternity leave (which isn’t legally protected in this country – in a salaried role you can have 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery, or 8 weeks for a cesarean) can come back to a reduced role, or can be passed over for coveted promotions – putting them at a disadvantage from that point on. Women are treated as oddities in male-dominated roles – she’s a female dev, not just dev. She’s a lady doctor, not just doctor. She’s a girl mechanic, not just mechanic. And women dominated industries are the least valued industries. Remember in the classic “Meet the Parents,” that Greg (Ben Stiller) is a nurse, and he’s constantly belittled for it. In fact, the audience is invited to participate in the mockery once we find out that Greg could be a doctor, but he chooses to be a nurse instead, like a dum-dum!

According to the ACLU, women still make just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Black women earn only 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by white men. One in four homeless women is homeless because of domestic violence. And, while we’re talking of keeping a roof over your head, women still deal with having to fend off landlords’ sexual advances.

As a white person, I have it a lot better than most. I get paid fairly. I took a five-month maternity leave with my third child (I got 6 weeks with my twins). There’s a fairly decent chance that if I took a complaint to the police, I’d be listened to. It’s because of these advantages that I care deeply about feminism, particularly about the women who are most marginalized. We need feminism because we haven’t fixed it yet, and we probably will never be at a point where we don’t need to be vigilant and careful to protect everyone and treat everyone equally.

 

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