So, last night I did something stupid. Something that modern day parents warn their children about. Something I know I should never do. I got into a debate in the comment section of Youtube. In the midst of reading some responses to a video by one of my favorite Youtubers, I decided to reply to a man who was attempting to counter argue every single reason that the speaker gave, line by line, as to why she supported feminism. Needless to say, it spiraled into an argument about gender (in)equality, the term “feminism”, and how feminists want to kill all men and rule the world. Tempers flared, caps locks were activated, and it ended with him threatening me with violence. I know, I know, don’t feed the trolls. I never learn. I read ignorant crap on the internet, and I’m convinced that once I calmly explain why this person is dead wrong, they will have a dramatic epiphany, and I will console them as they ashamedly apologize for their misinformed ramblings. Ha, right.
In light of the Elliot Rodgers shooting, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in conversations about gender inequality on social media: friends (mostly women, but some men) linking articles about misogyny, writing statuses about personal experiences with sexism, sharing videos that highlight discrepancies between men and women in both everyday life and in society as a whole. I believe that if there is one positive (if that is even the right word) thing that came out of this horrifying act of misogyny, it is that it has opened the flow of communication about our culture and how we treat and view women in our society, not just on feminist blogs and forums, but via Twitter, Facebook and dinner-time discussions.
However, the conversation, like most, is not one sided. (I mean, if every single person in the world thought that gender inequality was a serious issue in our society…well, we’d be living in a society without gender inequality, so that’s kind of a paradox). When you start calling attention to negative behaviors of a specific group of people, individuals who are a part of that group are going to feel personally attacked, so all this talk of male entitlement and female oppression has put many men on the defense, prompting popular responses such as “not all men do that”, “you’re being over dramatic”, and, my favorite, “whoa, what about all of the ways that men are marginalized and oppressed in our society?”
The majority of these guys aren’t rapists. They’ve never hit a woman. They’ve had female bosses whom they respected. They don’t mind lending a hand with dinner or pitching in cleaning the house. They support their wives who have chosen to have a career and raise a family. And they’ve certainly never shot anybody because they couldn’t get laid and felt rejected by all women.
But even though the data has shown us time and time again that we do indeed still live in a patriarchal society, there are still those who refuse to see it, and they are the most dangerous. They are far more dangerous than the misogynists who purposefully act in ways to keep women down, who truly and bluntly believe that men are dominate and that women should be meek and submissive. Most men when asked if they believe that men and women should be treated equally will answer yes. It’s easy to point out the crazy man who wants to keep women on leashes, but when it comes down to it, many men don’t notice the subtle micro-agressions that women face on a daily basis.
And that makes them part of the problem. If your initial response to a woman discussing her experience with catcalling is to point out the obvious fact that no, not every guy does this, then you are part of the problem. If you view feminists as a threat, as power hungry bitches who are trying to dominate all men, then you are part of the problem. If you think that all statistics about sexual assault or workplace discrimination have been skewed and blown out of proportion, then you are part of the problem.
You have to realize something. Regardless of which cavemen originally declared that men were the superior sex, we still live a world that perpetuates this idea: a world where women only make up about 20% of the world’s elected officials; where women continue to make less money than men within the same occupation; where basic human characteristics like being caring, dependent, and emotional are attributed to females, and any man who demonstrates these attributes is seen as weak because he is acting like a woman; where the worst insults you can call someone (ie pussy, bitch, douche, cunt) compare the person to a woman; where websites like Return of Kings write articles titled “Women Should Not Be Allowed to Vote” and “Women Are Wimps and That’s Not a Bad Thing”; where young girls are given Barbies and baby dolls and play kitchens that help develop domesticity while young boys are given Legos and G.I. Joes and kiddy power tools that help develop creativity and constructiveness; where women’s bodies are used as advertising space for anything from food, to cars, to clothing, to political ideology; where the female form has become so sexualized that schools feel the need to keep the shoulders and thighs of junior high and high school girls covered up; where a man can have sex with as many women as he likes and be considered a stud, whereas a woman who has many sexual partners is considered a slut; where a male pop star can be convicted of violently assaulting his girlfriend, be sentenced to 5 years probation, and go on to have a top 10 single within two years of the incident; where female journalists and bloggers are subject to threats of rape and violence from men who disagree with their position; where 1 in 5 American women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime; where male victims of rape rarely report the incident because it is viewed as something that happens to women; where a man who killed six people because he was angry at both women for not sleeping with him and men for hogging the women he felt entitled to is met with understanding and empathy.
This is the world we live in.
This is gender inequality.
Look, guys, I get it. Nobody wants to be labeled as the bad guy. Nobody wants to be held accountable for the actions of others. Nobody wants to be blamed for an injustice that has been an integral part of society since thousands of years before your great great great great great grandfather was even conceived; an injustice that you were simply raised to believe was the norm. Nobody wants to talk about the things they, and others of their gender, do in everyday life that contribute to the suffering of women.
But we have to talk about this. We have to acknowledge these inequalities. We have to point out the big things and the little things and the things that are uncomfortable and the things that no one wants to hear about. Because being quiet and avoiding the issues will not make them go away. Ignoring the sexism that is ingrained in our culture and refusing to acknowledge its existence creates an environment for gender inequality to thrive. An environment that locks women and men into structured gender roles. An environment that allows jerks in the comment section to threaten violence against a woman simply because she is a woman. An environment that breeds men like Elliot Rodger.
And we all deserve so much better than that.