Every Tuesday and Thursday morning my alarm blares as I groggily fumble around looking for my iPhone, squinting at the bright screen in search of the snooze button. I continue my morning routine, shuffling into the kitchen to pour myself a bowl of Honey-Nut-Cheerios, and then plopping onto the couch to watch New Day on CNN.
After breakfast I’ll scramble to get ready, stop at my favorite cafe for a medium mocha iced latte with whole milk, and then rush off to my first class, Mosaics II, by 8 a.m. Despite its focus on humanities and literature, Mosaics usually isn’t one of my favorite classes. (The early start time doesn’t help either.) I typically struggle to keep my eyes open as we study “The Classics,” doodling in my notebook and finishing off whatever is left of my chocolatey, sweet latte.
But this morning was different…
Despite it’s routine beginning. This morning I wasn’t awoken by my heavily caffeinated beverage, but my eyes were abruptly opened after hearing what several of my [male] classmates had to say in today’s discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
The lecture began with a history of Wollstonecraft and continued with a discussion on how her work relates to society today. As my professor clicked ‘next slide,’ three images appeared on the screen before us: Margaret Thatcher, Julia Gillard, and Hillary Clinton. Below their profiles read a quote: “Through the exceptions, we often see the ‘rule.'” If you didn’t already know, (and you couldn’t already guess after reading Hillary Clinton’s name) the latter are three prominent women in today’s political world.
Naturally the women of the class had plenty to say about the lack of representation for women in government, specifically in America – a nation that is thought to be the “land of the free” and overflowing with opportunity for all. But it wasn’t until the professor asked specifically for a male’s perspective that she got a response from a handful of the boys in the class.
To the boy who was first to raise his hand to say that women simply “settle” and that’s why they’re not in leadership roles, I would first like to suggest having a conversation or two with one of the thousands of intelligent, driven, and accomplished women at our school. Second, I’d like to talk about the infamous glass ceiling. I’d like to acknowledge your opinion: “Most girls just don’t have the same attitude as Hillary Clinton. They don’t have the right attitude to be president.” …And then I’d like to tell you you’re wrong.
Women are underrepresented in the political and corporate world, not because of their “attitude” or because they have difficulty balancing work and family, but because they face greater barriers in advancement to leadership roles. The glass ceiling, so subtle that it’s transparent but so strong you can’t pass through it, tends to concentrate female executives into staff and support jobs, offering little opportunity to advance to the top; Not to mention the undeniable strength of the “old-boy network” a.k.a. the bunch of guys gathered around a table deciding who to promote. Naturally, these good ol’ boys choose those who are most similar to them. Thus men are promoted and women are left behind.
Moving on to the boy who raised his hand but continued to interrupt the professor while she was speaking, I’d like to say, “Wait your turn.” And as far as denying the existence of a gender wage gap, I’d like to say, “Show me the evidence.” Yes, you are correct; you can essentially alter statistics to defend almost any argument. But the simple fact that you took a class (most likely taught by a male) as a sophomore business student at Fox School of Business isn’t enough evidence for me after reading the stats that tell me I’m set to make 79 cents to your dollar straight after graduation. Unequal pay is an even larger issue for women of minortities. So if you’re going to make the argument that women leave companies and organizations at a higher rate than men – First you’d be wrong – And second, why not offer both maternity and paternity leave? Let’s shake the double standard that women are responsible for having a career and managing the household. Let’s share the responsibility… equally.
And to the boy who raised his hand and understood the “raw wound” and the need for equality I’d like to say: Thank you. Thank you for pointing out that indeed, it’s not an issue of one gender being at fault for the plight of another, but an issue we must face as humans. A 20-year-old male engineering student, who spends almost all of his time in male-dominated classes, in a male-dominated field, can acknowledge the urgency for better representation of women — So why can’t you, America?
Most importantly though, I’d like to move beyond the network of women building up other women, to a world of people encouraging people to be better, smarter, stronger, and braver. Feminism is about equality and equality is for everyone.