Women’s Rights are Human Rights!
While individual women have made big strides since “The Feminine Mystique” hit the bookstores in the 1960’s, women on the whole still experience systemic discrimination based on gender. Regardless of age and experience, we still don’t have the same respect or recognition that is enjoyed by our male counterparts.
Women experience discrimination, albeit different kinds, throughout our lives. The sexism I experienced as a young woman had a lot to do with my being seen as a sexual object. In the 1960’s and 70’s young women’s ideas and intelligence were undervalued, and we had fewer opportunities than our brothers.
Second wave feminism opened up economic possibilities for middle-class, white, and younger women, but we still have a long way to go. Young women continue to be objectified and sexualized. Mature women are more assertive and active today than ever before, but we still face subtle and even overt challenges to our power and ability.
Like racism, sexism still pervades all of our institutions. Our boardrooms and halls of government continue to be run by men. Statistics reveal rape, harassment, and domestic violence are at epidemic rates and women workers continue to receive unequal pay.
Whether conservative or liberal, men often act with entitlement, collude with each other in upholding male privilege, and take advantage of women. Women who are abused in the workplace, in the home, and on campus often do not say anything for fear of retaliation. They feel they will end up suffering for their courage.
For millennia women have done the majority of the work raising children, growing food, and building bonds within families and communities. For this reason, I think women have been more inclined toward nonviolence, collaboration, and overall reverence for life and nature. Unfortunately, those ideals are suppressed along with women in general.
Our world today reflects a masculinist orientation toward competition, war, and domination that has shaped our economic and political reality. This worldview has resulted in disrespect for the planet and its people, and the treatment of earth as an endless resource for industry and profit rather than an ecosystem that supports life. If we hope to protect the planet and ensure the future of life on earth, we must move toward models of cooperation instead.
Racism and sexism are tough pills to swallow. We like to think that these unattractive viewpoints belong to other segments of society or to other cultures, not to us. People in this country are quick to be outraged by the treatment of women in non-western societies, but women’s bodies are consistently legislated, brutalized, and objectified in the West, and their abilities and intelligence are regularly overlooked because of their gender. Neither a bikini nor a burka protects a woman from loss of individual freedom of expression or equal respect and opportunity.
Whether people agree with Hillary Clinton’s policies or not, it’s hard to deny she has been the target of sexism throughout her campaign. I’ve been horrified by the fact that, in place of thoughtful political discourse, we’ve been subjected to misogynist rhetoric. Just as many people could not accept a black president, many people cannot come to terms with a female president. For me, it was powerful to at last see a woman receive the presidential nomination of a major political party. It was truly as paradigm shifting as seeing Barack Obama elected into office.
It’s long overdue for us, as a society, to build a movement for sustained collective action to level the playing field for women and girls, and push for desperately needed gender justice.
About the Author:
Sylvia Golbin-Goodman is the Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation and a member of its Board of Trustees. She leads the Foundation’s programming and developed the Hidden Heroes Awards.