Why We Still Need Feminism

By Kaileen McGourty

maxresdefault


The feminist movement has never been unanimously popular – whether due to honest disapproval of gender equality, like that experienced by the Suffragettes, or a disbelief that feminism is still necessary today. And that’s why I’m writing this article, because of the recently blooming opinion that we don’t need feminism anymore. There are a significant number of people in this country, and possibly throughout the world, who believe that we ended sexism and gender discrimination (Yay! We did it apparently!) and therefore see feminism as redundant or even causing victim-hood among women. But that’s simply false. Discrimination based on sex is still very present in the US (and the rest of the world); those who do not see it either aren’t women or aren’t looking very hard. A good way to expose the ever-present sexism in our society is to examine dominant versus popular culture.

Dominant Culture

Let’s being with a definition. The dominant culture is made up of established societal aspects like language, rituals, or social customs. These aspects maintain dominance through institutions like the education system, law, politics, and business. This is the layer of society where first and second wave feminism focused – attacking where the most obvious and detrimental acts of gender discrimination existed at the time. The lack of women’s right to vote or own property, unjust pay, discriminatory educational practices, and workplace sexual harassment all were obstacles in the dominant culture. As a result of strong feminist efforts, we have seen great improvement in this sphere of society – this is what some are referencing when they claim that feminism is no longer necessary. Women won the right to vote and hold land. Laws punishing sexual harassment and encouraging workplace safety have come into effect. Title IX was created to insure educational institutions treat female students equally.

But have we really improved gender discrimination in the dominant culture as much as some may think? Let’s say we’re going to measure the presence of gender discrimination in dominant culture with wages. Over time, in the U.S. it is very clear that the average wage for women has moved closer and closer to that of men (see the graph below). However, we’ve yet to actually reach wage equality. As Harvard economist Claudia Goldin explains, if you calculate the average annual earnings of all full-time working women and divide that by the equivalent calculation for men the result would be around .77 – meaning, on average, women earn 77% of what men earn. So we can’t quite say there is gender equality in pay yet.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.20.31 PM

But is this a fluke? Let’s try a different measure. How about the portion of political positions held by women? According to the World Bank data-bank, in 1990 women held a mere 6.6% of political seats in the U.S. and as of 2015 women held 19.4%. That is a huge improvement across time; however that number pales in comparison to the other one-hundred and eighty nine reporting countries in 2015. Ranking from highest percentage to lowest, the U.S. finds itself, just barely in the top 50%, at number 96 – below countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, nearly every “developed” country, and many more. So, sadly, we can’t claim political gender equality either.

Popular Culture

We have to accept that our country has not reached gender equity in dominant culture. That does not mean we’ll forget the huge improvements women have seen in our country’s history – something both genders should be proud of. But there seems to be a final obstacle preventing real equality and an end to gender discrimination. I believe that it’s the sexist foundations of popular culture standing in the way. Popular culture is more than the who’s who and what’s what. It’s defined as the sum of attitudes, beliefs, ideas, and values within the mainstream or dominant culture. It’s the culture of how we interact and what we believe. This is where those who believe sex discrimination has vanished lack an understanding or haven’t connected the dots, so to speak. Our popular culture is built upon the sexist cornerstone that women are not equal to men – this holds back gender parity in dominant culture and perpetuates potentially harmful attitudes. These attitudes account for things like street harassment and catcalling, “mansplaining”, and even rape culture. Let me give a few examples:

I asked twenty women I know, all of different ages, sizes, and locations, a question: how many days out of the week do you experiencing catcalling or other forms of street harassment? Accounting for how many days they actually walk on the street or use public transportation, on average they experienced some sort of harassment approximately 5 out of 7 days – and that’s not considering how many times it happened each day! And if you don’t believe me, ask the women in your life.

I am a huge hockey fan (go Blackhawks!), probably more knowledgeable on the topic than the average fan. But I cannot count with all my digits the number of times a man has tried to explain rules or aspects of hockey to me, based purely on the assumption that because I am a female I must not know about sports. Nor can I count the number of times someone, knowing my academic and professional experience, began explaining topics in my field of expertise because the intelligence of women is constantly challenged in our culture.

While those examples may seem harmless, and on the surface they mostly are, they are representative of a dangerous attitude – what women know, want, or say doesn’t really matter. And when that attitude gets applied to something more complicated than hockey knowledge, like sexual consent for example, heinous violations of women occur.

If you still aren’t sure that our popular culture is built on a foundation of gender discrimination I have a dare for you: in this awards season, watch all the red carpet (whatever color carpet) interviews. The presence of sex discrimination is thinly veiled at these events and is most apparent when comparing how male artists and female artists are interviewed. Compare the types of questions – are women being asked about their love life or beauty regime, while men are asked about their role preparation or inspiration behind a song? Of course, you already know the answer. This type of sexist interviewing goes undisguised in every sphere of pop culture, just watch how absurd the questions for female athletes are in this video by #CoverTheAthlete.

So What?

The reason I had to tell you all this? Gender discrimination is not done. Women are still fighting everyday to be treated with respect and equality. Our culture still does not truly value women’s intelligence, work, sexuality, or opinions. While our dominant culture has made great strides in the past towards gender equity and the fair treatment of women, society as a whole is being held back by the final obstacles – how we think, how we act, and what we value. To truly reach gender equality and an end to sex discrimination in our dominant culture and in all of society we cannot leave behind a popular culture built upon sexism. We need to rally around feminism and women. We need to examine how our individual participation in popular culture is impacting the existence of sexist attitudes. And we need to say “enough is enough pop culture, get it together!” I think it’s about time.

—–

Kaileen McGourty is a Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service.

Advertisements

The Problem with the ‘Black on Black Crime’ Argument

By Ernest Ezeugo

Photo by Scott Olsen/Getty Images


In recent months, several tragic instances of police practicing excessive (sometimes fatal) force against black men and women have awakened a nationwide discussion about police brutality and how the justice system impacts the black community. This discussion has made a lot of people angry and defensive, and those emotions have led to some virulent responses and justifications.

Of all the empathy-void, compassion-less rebuttals to higher rates of police brutality against black men and women I’ve seen, “oh yeah? well what about black-on-black crime” is my favorite perhaps the most egregious. I have a few ideas on why people who can’t/don’t want to understand the plight of communities concerned by recent events turn to this defense, but below are my thoughts on why citing black-on-black crime is not an acceptable counterargument for police brutality.

Black on black crime and police brutality against black people are not mutually exclusive.
It is entirely reasonable to care about black on black crime and talk about how police brutality and the black community are related. It’s similar to how you can be a fan of waffles and still want pizza for dinner: black-on-black crime and police brutality are two entirely different conversations that don’t need to happen at the same time.

It’s a practice in the politics of changing the subject.
Ta-Nehisi Coates does a lot of writing about the politics of changing the subject that is very much worth taking a look at. Simply put, the black on black crime defense–kin to the “don’t wear seductive clothing” defense and the “don’t dress like a thug” defense–is a form of respectability politics that irrationally turns the blame for the death and mistreatment of black men and women at the hands of the law back onto the community. At its most general, it transforms a necessary conversation about race and justice into a condescending, often blithering discourse on the state of the black community. This is a problem for many reasons that I’ll get into, but essentially at the top of those: it’s a scapegoat that prevents us from taking part in the tough but restorative conversations about race that America has needed to engage in since the Civil War.

It’s a false equivalency.
As this interview with David Rudovsky explains, an inherent conflict of interest arises when an officer takes a life while on duty, immediately disqualifying the notion that police brutality can even be considered in the same league as any level of citizen crime, black-on-black crime in particular. Police officers serve as defenders of the people, so when a police officer is responsible for the death of any civilian, several cogs move into place to assure that trust is maintained between law enforcement and the community. This phenomenon is the reason why we know how many officers were killed in the line of duty this year, but have no accurate measurement of how many civilians were killed at the hands of police. And, begrudgingly, I understand the intent behind it. It isn’t so much shadiness as it is a means of securing trust, and therefore peace, in a society. …But at the end of the day, it doesn’t make it right. And it means that black-on-black crime and police brutality against black people, by their very definitions, are an equivalency that has no merit.

Put succinctly: Black people who kill black people go to jail. Policemen that kill people often do not.

It implicitly suggests that black people are not a part of the State.
In perhaps the most atrocious attempt to relate black on black crime to police brutality of the year, former mayor Rudy Giuliani made some disparaging comments about the state of the black community in an interview with Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. Chief among them was this thoughtless epitaph: “White police officers wouldn’t be (in your community) if you weren’t killing each other.”

Of the several things wrong with this comment, the most concerning is its implication. We know that police officers are meant to serve and protect all citizens. But when Giuliani asks Dyson what he is doing to heal his community, he proposes two dangerous and incorrect assumptions that many who conjure up the black-on-black crime defense similarly imply: that crime as it occurs in black communities occurs at the fault of the community rather than at the fault of the individual, and that black communities can do more to stop crime than they currently are, and for some reason choosing not to.

In the same way that crime in any other form of community is born, crime involving members of the black community is the product of an individual’s thoughts and desires. It’s for that reason that Giuliani’s assertion is so absurd. There is no superhuman connectivity between black people or paranormal mental Facebook that black people can log onto that allows us to control how often other black people commit crimes. And it’s not like black communities like crime, or aren’t working hard to stop it. We can only expect communities to do what they’ve already been doing.

All of this to say, it is not solely the black community’s responsibility to control crime among its people, just like it is not solely any other communities’ responsibility, because there is nothing that makes the black community different. Remember the police? It’s their responsibility. And consequently, it is their policies and procedures that have to be the first to called to question when the black community is jailed, sentenced, and killed at exponentially higher rates than any other community in the nation.

Talking about race is not easy. If it were, the discussion about race, justice, and law enforcement would have happened after Emmett Till, not at the end of 2014. If we’re going to get to the bottom of what it means to talk about and eventually resolve these issues, we have to be honest with ourselves about what a proper conversation looks like. It’s time to stop pretending that black-on-black crime has a place in the conversation.

—–

Ernest is  the founder of Thirty Eight Minutes.

Featured Partner: Bennett Foundation for Public Service

Check out our featured partner!

tem bennett foundation


The Bennett Foundation for Public Service

We’re pleased to be introducing one of our first and most important featured partners: The Bennett Foundation for Public Service. The Bennett Foundation and Thirty Eight Minutes share a number of core beliefs, the most important of which is a duty towards helping create engaged citizens, educating our community, and taking on the defining issues of our time. Find out more about them here.

Upcoming Event: PoliCon 2014

PoliCon-banner-

To promote the mission of creating educated leaders and tackling the issues of our time, The Bennett Foundation is hosting a policy conference on September 27th, 2014 in Oklahoma City, and you’re invited! You can purchase a ticket in advance here or pay at the door. To learn more, click the PoliCon2014 image or check out this excerpt from their site.

“PoliCon is a Bennett Foundation project in partnership with Oklahoma Student Leader Summit and 38Minutes.

The first-ever PoliCon will bring together young leaders from across the state to listen to policy experts discuss some of the most pressing challenges facing Oklahomans today. Leaders will be encouraged to gather information and consider public policy solutions to issues ranging from education to criminal justice reform. We’ll wrap the conference up with a “stump speech seminar” that will help attendees articulate their passion for public service in a way that will immediately grab the attention of prople or groups they go on to speak with.

Join us Saturday, Sept. 27th at the historic Paramount Theater in downtown OKC for a gathering of emerging leaders!

Tickets can be purchased here, and include breakfast and lunch.”

29 Things I Learned From The World Cup

By David Postic

 

2014 World Cup


 

As we draw near to the end of the year’s greatest sporting event, I would like to get a few things off my chest. First of all: I know next to nothing about soccer (or fútbol, for those of you who actually know things about soccer). I played it for years growing up, but there were way fewer rules and the game mostly consisted of us kids running around in a pack, waiting until halftime so we could have Capri Sun and Fruit Gushers. This is not the soccer I’ve seen in the World Cup. So on behalf of all the non-soccer fans out there, here are my observations:

1. There isn’t as much head butting as I was led to believe.

2. However, there is more biting than I was led to believe.

3. It is apparently mandatory for most soccer players to have the Macklemore haircut.

4. The amount of gel in your hair is directly proportional to how good you are.

5. Bonus points for having a shape and/or words shaved into your hair.

6. Penalty kicks are the worst thing in the history of the world.

7. Soccer announcers are glorious human beings.

8. The most random countries are really good at soccer.

9. For example: Bosnia-Herzegovina? Chile? Croatia? Gondor? Narnia?

10. America is not really good at soccer.

11. American fans are pretty good at being soccer fans, though.

12. Soccer fans are generally insane.

13. Teddy Roosevelt is a soccer fan.

14. Ergo, Teddy Roosevelt is insane (also dead).

15. Stoppage time is dumb. We have technology. Just stop the clock.

16. I have seen way fewer bicycle kicks (0) than I expected (every single kick).

17. Brazil seems super upset right now.

18. Germany scored 7 goals in 90 minutes.

19. That’s a rate of 1 goal every 13 minutes.

20. Argentina and Belgium combined for 0 goals in 120 minutes.

21. That’s a rate of 0 goals every infinity minutes.

22. I can score 0 goals every infinity minutes.

23. Watching someone score a goal is one of the most exciting parts of my life.

24. Soccer players are really nice to each other.

25. Except when they’re biting each other.

26. Not having commercials is by far the biggest draw of watching soccer matches.

27. I still don’t get what constitutes offsides.

28. I also don’t get why Pitbull was chosen to sing the official 2014 World Cup theme song.

29. I miss the 2010 World Cup theme song.

And those are my thoughts on soccer.

After watching literally days of World Cup soccer, I can honestly say that I still barely have any idea what’s going on. But I am learning. More importantly, the game is really growing on me. The world’s most popular sport has this inexplicable charm to it that makes it a joy to watch. And on those rare occasions (other than the Germany-Brazil match) where someone actually scores a goal, I find myself yelping with joy. It is a wonderful, wonderful game. And I will thoroughly miss it for the next four years until America cares about it again.

See this post on BuzzFeed.

—–

David Postic is a second-year law student at the University of Oklahoma.