Sense of Self...

Let’s Talk About the F word

When I started this blog in 2014, I did it to bemoan the inequities that occur as one ages. However, it has become more of a journal of random thoughts. It is a way for me to sort things out, and to make sense of my world. I have fantasies of my grandchildren in their 20s or 30s, looking at this old bird and wondering “what was she like?” then finding my blog (because nothing truly goes away on the world wide web), and learning about my family, my childhood, my passions…a virtual life review. So, today I thought I would share another part of me.

When confronted, sometimes without provocation, about my personal beliefs, I often stumble. I do not do a great job of immediately and strongly stating my case. Sometimes it is because the person catches me off guard, or I perceive that he or she is coming at me with predetermined contempt for what they believe to be my viewpoint.

Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative voice in economics, business, and politics recently spoke of how political polarization is related to contempt for another’s viewpoint (The real problem with American politics). He makes an excellent point defining contempt as the “utter conviction of the worthlessness of another human being.”  This contempt shuts down real communication on any topic, but particularly on political viewpoints.  So in the spirit of sorting things out and making sense of my world, I decided to write down my thoughts and present them warm-heartedly.

Let me share my viewpoint, without contempt, about the F word…

F – eminism…

I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, nurse, and a feminist. I do not hide this fact. Those who truly know me have known this all along. I am a feminist because I support gender equality – socially, economically, and politically.

I am a feminist because I do not believe that gender should be used to make decisions about employment, salary, or promotions. According to 2016 data from the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), the median weekly earnings of all men working full-time or salary was $915. For all women working full-time or salary, it was $749.

I have heard men suggest that this inequity is due to a variety of reasons …women do not choose to pursue higher paying jobs…women go on maternity leave… women do not know how to negotiate…yada-yada-yada. In 2011, Business Insider listed a series of reasons why the “Gender Pay Gap” is a pretense (SIDE NOTE: the quotes are Business Insider’s, not mine. The reason it is in quotes is a mystery to me. Is it the equivalent of air quotes to mock the concept?). Let’s look at a few of their reasons…

men choose careers that are dangerous, like industrial workers. But women do go after those jobs, and yet make less money. According to the USBLS, for industrial truck and tractor operators, men make $510 weekly while women bring in a paltry $54.
….men are more likely to work in higher paying fields like engineering or computer fields. Women are there too. So, let’s go to the numbers…architectural and engineering occupations – men $1529, women $1207; computer and mathematical occupations – men $1518, women $1325.
men are more likely to take jobs that require them to work evenings or weekends, thus affording them more income. Hmmm…Now I have been a nurse for over 40 years. Nurses work all shifts – days, evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. And, the nursing profession is known for being a primarily female profession. The USBLS supports this with their listing female nursing numbers at 2,313,000 and male nursing numbers at 285,000. Yet, even in this female-centrist profession, men make more money – $1261 compared to $1,143 in median weekly earnings.

I believe the reason women are paid less is because companies can and do get away with it. PBS News Hour online posted an interesting article by Nick Corcodilos, a Silicon Valley headhunter, who agrees with me. He states: “There is only one thing a woman should have to do to get paid as much as a man: her job.” Read the article and read the comments by men relating to this issue…quite insightful. He believes, as do I, that a job is a job, no matter which gender does it.

But I am a feminist for so much more than this one issue.

Feminist solidarity…

I am a feminist because I find it truly frightening that the use of the term “pussy hat” as a modern symbol of women unity can evoke such shock and anger in some men (and some women)…yet the vulgar use of the term to describe a woman’s genitalia is somehow accepted as locker room talk. I am a feminist because when the then-candidate was shown describing his abhorrent abuse of power over women, he was still elected. I am a feminist because women accepted and allowed it.

And let me make this clear, I am a feminist because I believe that a man’s abuse of power over women (including past presidents) is WRONG! And I am a feminist because I believe that vilifying the wives of cheating husbands is also wrong.

I have more than a suspicion that all women have experienced, at some point in their lives, unwanted sexual attention, groping, near or real date-rape, and/or verbal cruelty – often disgustedly termed “slut shaming”, all because they were lucky enough to receive an extra shot of the X chromosome. So, when I see other women accepting or engaging in this activity, my feminism starts to show.

I am a feminist because I believe every girl on this globe should have an education. I am a feminist in solidarity with Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the face because she had the audacity to speak out about girl’s education.

Female-centric education…

I am a feminist because it bothers me to my soul that it wasn’t until 2017, that we were first introduced to Mary Jackson, Katherine Goble Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughn and their mathematic and scientific work at NASA. This shattered my view of American and world history because it was based on androcentrism. So, Betsy Ross may be just the tip of the iceberg of women who played a role in the American Revolution? Why weren’t we taught about women’s contributions to securing freedom in our country? And why weren’t we introduced to Frances L. Clalin, who shorn her locks and fought in the heavy artillery company alongside her male counterparts; one of over 400 documented cases that women fought as soldiers in the civil war? It is time to rewrite the history books and include women’s role in world events.

Feminist issues across the globe…

I am a feminist because I live in a world where sex trafficking is a thing; where in some other countries, women are not allowed to run for public office, or even vote; where girls are abducted en masse to sexually service rebel factions; and where there is such a thing as forced female castration.

Feminism – What it is not…

Being a feminist does not mean that I am a man-hater. I cede the fact that there is a faction and a fraction of women, who due to their personal history (violence, sexual assault, bullying due to sexual orientation) are. I have not walked in their shoes, so I do not judge them. But I am not.

Being pro-women does not mean that I am anti-men…just the opposite. Being pro-choice and believing that women should have the ultimate decision over matters of their own body, does not mean that I am pro-abortion…I am not.

Being a feminist does not mean that I am a “feminazi”, another pejorative term that women are labeled if they stand up to inequalities. To me, being a feminist is advocating for an equal seat at the table.

Feminist politics…

When our elected officials meet to change the healthcare for millions of Americans, I want some elected women in the room. The Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, states in their Fact sheet about Women in the U.S. Congress 2017, that only 19% of the American Congress is comprised of women.   We have a long way to go in American political representation.

According to the United Nations, Women in Politics: 2017, “women’s voices are still missing from the executive branches of governments and parliaments worldwide.” We have a long way to go in this world.  The UN Women Executive Director talks of the importance of men joining in the feminist effort.

I hope the men in my life also believe in gender equality and show their feminist side.  We feminists have a long way to go. This 63 year old, wearing my pink pussy hat, believes we should go the distance.

I am happy to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts…without contempt…warm-heartedly.


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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About the F word

  1. Excellent writing as always, Mimi. I got into a FB fight just a few days ago with someone about the definition of feminism. She was the administrator of a page about the show “Marriage at First Sight.” It was a closed page that she was operating like her own little fiefdom, deleting all opinions with which she disagreed and publicly threatening to kick out members who said things she didn’t like. She wrote that feminism was for women who hated men and wanted careers instead of babies. Say wha??? I corrected her by saying no, feminism is all about choice. You want to have a career? Good, go for it. You want a career AND a husband? Fine. You want a career and a husband AND babies? No problem. You want a husband and a career but no babies? Your choice. You want to have babies and stay home full time to raise them? That’s fine too. You want to stay home and have babies but work part-time? Do it!

    It’s all about choice, about embracing the choices we enjoy and rejecting those we don’t. It’s about having the freedom our grandmothers never had to live the way we want to live.

    My comments were deleted and I decided to leave the fiefdom before I was kicked out.

  2. I’m with you on all these issues sis! You make great points and I do like to think I’m in touch with that side of me; maybe it was taught to me through my five sisters and loving mother or all the females I’ve interacted with my entire life. Still, I can’t lay claim to being an expert and it is through writings like yours that I realize
    how much more I have to learn. Thanks for giving your brother another meaningful insight and perspective.

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