Are women’s rights valid during a pandemic? Not everyone thinks so
Last week, I read a post that made me stop in my tracks: It said that speaking about gender equality and women’s issues was an outdated subject of 2019. The writer continued that especially now with Covid19 women’s issues were somewhat irrelevant. The author used this pandemic a reason to stop discussing one of the most urgent problems in our society.
WOW. I had to re-read the post all over again. Did I misunderstand something? Isn’t gender equality an even more dominant topic as press and government have finally recognized that women do essential jobs? The jobs that are keeping our society alive and are creating the base for all of us to coexist; nurses, teachers, caretakers, cashiers, and the list goes on. We are recognizing the power that women have as leaders for our society. It is perhaps not the most convenient time to ask for equal pay. However, this may be a good time to ensure that women should have a seat at the table in the future.
How this country holds its women back, and how some women get it double
When I moved to the US, I was shocked that there is no national standard for maternity leave. The US is the only country that doesn’t protect women at work during pregnancy and childbirth. I don’t necessarily have a reason to complain about this as I do not have children. Nevertheless, childbearing is not just a private matter. It ensures that our society will survive and thrive.
Therefore, it is everyone’s responsibility to fight for gender equality and protect women. By that, I mean giving women economic stability, access to childcare, and education. How can we refuse to ensure that a mother has access to good healthcare? How can we refuse to ensure that a woman has access to excellent education when women are the ones educating the next generation? How can we refuse to create a structure that provides stability and a well-paying job for a woman bringing food to her family’s table?
The social discrepancies widen even more for women of color, a topic that we need to discuss in another post. The stress that women experience within our society forces many to make decisions based on socio-economical markers. With more opportunity, they could focus on making our communities better or on making their personal dreams come true. Society shames women that put their dreams ahead of their reproductive abilities. It is baffling to me how a society that states freedom as the most precious value inherently still boxes in women with ideas and norms from the mid-century.
Feminism’s role in modern times and in the fight for equal opportunity
Feminism is, therefore, not just relevant but necessary. In this rapidly changing time, it is our duty to help everyone understand the meaning of freedom and free choices. Even more so, we must create a society that offers equal opportunity to everyone, no matter their background, skin color, or gender. Women especially have to push back for their aspirations.
This becomes almost absurd when you hear that all 50 states haven’t ratified the ERA in the US. I am not sure what is more ridiculous: men still deciding womens’ destinies or some women choosing to be blinded by the patriarchal system and stand in support of the very thing that brings them down.
What is even more dangerous is the belief that we live in a free world. When we think we’ve achieved this goal, inequality can’t be a reality. Especially in the last weeks, I’ve had many conversations about the alleged laziness of people. It is so much easier to blame people for not succeeding than the system that holds them back. This is especially true when you have to admit that you are a beneficiary of it. But it’s work that must be done.
I am and have been a feminist since I can remember. Growing up in a matriarchal family, it was out of the question not to stand for gender equality. Nevertheless, feminism didn’t mean the same thing for my grandmother and mother as it means to me. Many people are still making the wrong assumptions about feminism: the movement has evolved and is certainly less radical than in the 60s. Mainly because the generations before us have achieved much-needed change.
Practicing feminism as a team
As Meg Keen says it in one of her articles: “I can assure you, I’m not ashamed of reading celebrity gossip, or shaving my legs, or liking to occasionally wear fake eyelashes. I don’t necessarily consider the aforementioned feminist choices, but I’m not worried about them. I am an ardent feminist, but I feel no particular pressure to have every one of my choices push the cause of womankind forward. Because hey, it’s a big team, and we can all take turns.”
Feminism is much more versatile than many believe. That’s the beauty of it. At times it seems the movement excludes specific populations, which it never intended to do. Especially in the last weeks, it has become visible that, as feminists, we have to acknowledge the additional difficulties that women of color must overcome in their fight for equality. Opening the doors to that discussion shows solidarity and unity. Change can only be achieved in unity.