In 1991, a woman named Anita Hill faced a challenge that most, if not all, onlookers thought was impossible or even ridiculous.
Hill was to sit in court and face her boss and abuser, whom she had accused of sexual misconduct and harassment while she worked for him throughout his political career. Her boss’s name was Clarence Thomas, and he was about to become a Supreme Court justice.
Her trial was a mockery, treated as one long, irritating roadblock on the way to an exciting destination. The long-winded detour on the way home at the end of the day. No one wanted to be there. No one wanted to hear what Hill really had to say. It was a formality and a plea to get her to shut up, so that Thomas could take his coveted seat as 1/9 of the country’s judicial branch. And it was treated as such – just an inconvenience.
Arnie Sachs via Fortune
Facing an all-male judiciary, Hill’s accusations were dismissed as nothing more than the “typical annoyed complaints” they expected from a woman. It was made clear that the men presiding over her case had no concept of what sexual harassment truly meant. She was blatantly asked: “Are you a scorned woman?” The only reason they could see a woman going to this extent to bring down a male superior would be if she had been rejected by him. The trial ended with Thomas being confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Today, we’re seeing lots of trials over the same issue, with profoundly different results. Prominent, powerful men are being taken down by these accusations; and the women at the stand are not being dismissed like Hill was. What’s the reason for this colossal difference in the results of sexual assault trials between 1991 and 2018?
The answer: the women who are standing at the podium.
Image via USA Today
The difference between the way women have been treated and viewed in the years between these trials is crucial to achieving the results we’re seeing now. Taking down Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein, Steve Wynn – it’s all because women finally have a voice, and are finally being heard. But a lot of factors were needed to get there.
The one catch-all term for those factors: feminism.
I keep seeing articles posted and shared on Facebook with titles like “I Am A Female and I Am So Over Feminists.” I get it. Like every group of people, there’s always a minority that takes things too far. And maybe it’s hard to consider yourself as part of the same movement as the women marching in their bras with paint all over their skin, but that’s not what all feminism is. It’s one, radical part of it. It’s crucial to understand the rest.
Feminism is the reason that so many women are finally able to have justice instead of suffering from abuse in silence. When you say you’re over feminism, try to remember the innumerable women who have never been able to speak up. Think of the ones that had to keep working or living in these kinds of environments because there was nowhere else to go. Had there been no feminists, things could have stayed that way.
Every woman that fights for her rights, runs for office, becomes a CEO – all of these women make it easier for the next one and the next generation until things are truly equal. We can vote now because women fought to be able to vote back when it was unthinkable. We can aspire to be anything because women fought for our right to do so when they couldn’t aspire to everything themselves. We can demand equal pay because women a few short years ago marched for that same right when it wasn’t the norm.
Image via Pixabay
If you’re over feminism, you’re not doing your part now to make things even better for the future women who are to come. And that doesn’t seem fair to the women who risked everything to make life so good for us in the 21st century that we can start abandoning their ideology.
There’s always a lot I can say about this, so I won’t go on forever – no one likes a ramble. But if you’re someone who’s repulsed by the idea of “modern feminism,” please think again. At the very least, dig a little deeper and find out what feminism actually stands for and why it’s so important; and realize that the over-the-top, man-hating image you think of isn’t an accurate representation.
Don’t write off feminism once you see the extremists. It would be the same as writing off the Republican Party because of Donald Trump or the Democratic Party because of Bernie Sanders. A few outliers don’t dictate what an entire ideology consists of.
And if that’s still not enough to get you to change your thinking – try to picture what life would look like for us today if no one had fought for us in the past.
Let’s not punish the women of the future by making a mistake now. Let’s understand feminism and continue to embrace it, so they can live in a world that’s better than the one we have now.
Header image: Pixabay