October 19, 2018

Suffering after suffrage: Misogyny alive and well

Is misogyny dead? Everyone seems to think so. From Wall Street to Washington, the general consensus is that we’ve reached a state of progress so utopian, that women might one day be considered as important as other people.

Less than one hundred years ago, the 19th  Amendment of the United States Constitution  was ratified. This act, as flawed as it was, is arguably the most notable cornerstone of feminist progress in United States history. But was it the “end” of institutionalized sexism?

Woman’s suffrage was, no doubt, a catalyst for American social justice. Not only did it give (white) women the right to vote, it provided an incentive for male politicians to introduce more female-centric legislation to ballot. Barack Obama supports Planned Parenthood for the same reason, so too did representatives call for expanded maternity care and property rights.

But for many women, particularly women of color and those in the LGBT community, the world is still far from an ideal place to be female. Patriarchy, that buzzword that seems to elicit strong emotion regardless of one’s side in the “debate,” afflicts nearly every aspect of global society. It intersects human rights, and can seep into the more subtle crevices of social interaction.

From the insensitive idea that women should accept rape during military service as an expected event; to the measly female representation of 18 percent in the United States Congress, according to Rutgers University; to a wage gap that dictates black women must make 64 cents to every white man’s dollar, and Latina women 55 cents, according to the Huffington Post; to the complete lack of any female president. Even the automatic response of questioning victims of sexual crimes seems innocuous, and particularly dependent on what they were wearing.

All of this and much more serve as irrefutable evidence that directly contradicts the “sexism is over” rhetoric often employed by the fearful and the belligerent. On the contrary, the war on misogyny is just beginning, particularly because of how the false sense of on-paper equality has allowed sexism (and other –isms) to flourish in the streets, in the media and in corners of the globe where the voiceless are easily muted.

It’s what allows Robin Thicke to glorify the idea that women are inherently animalistic and need to be violently sodomized. It’s why women like Diana the Hunter, disenfranchised by a legal system in which most incidents of sexual assault go unpunished, are forced to take matters into their own bloody hands (“Diana,” as she identifies herself, has claimed responsibility for at least two murders of alleged rapists in Mexico). It’s why associations  with femininity are considered equivalent to weakness, aesthetically charming but otherwise useless.

Suffrage was a necessary step that shouldn’t have needed debate in the first place. A right to vote is not a right to live with the privileges of the male sex. For some women, ignoring the plight of their gender is as simple as proving they are “just as good” as a man, as if by default woman are inherently less intelligent, less able, less. It is argued that to escape the shackles of oppression, one must distinguish themselves from the rest of their flock, rather than force the oppressors to see the sheep were shepherds all along.

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