Perhaps what’s more important than what people believe is how they came to form their beliefs.
Every opinion, no matter how sophisticated or not, comes with a history: The years of formal education that precede it, the familial upbringing that either nurtured or stunted its growth and the art and media that shaped its course.
Articles like the one Annica Benning wrote for The State Press earlier this week make me wonder about the ways people come to make sense of the world, and how the differences in education and upbringing result in such a striking polarization in opinions and beliefs.
Perhaps those who are fatigued by “rants about equality” consider it exhausting because they’ve never had anything about which to rant. There is no point in discussing the issue of inequality because, for them, it might have never existed. If the issue exists, it might exist in textbooks or in newspaper headlines they avoid.
If the issue of inequality exists for them, they’d realize that bigotry ranges from the subtle, sometimes imperceptible patterns that only emerge after systematic research, such as wage inequality and glass ceilings, to the dangerously hostile.
It is every time the media tells the story of a rape with sympathy to the rapist: “What was she wearing? How many sexual partners does she have, and why was she out so late at night?”
A few hours from where this is being read, hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez have been killed on a regular basis over the past two decades, most often by either close male acquaintances or those who want to erase the evidence of a brutally violent rape.
Most of these women came to the city hoping to find better work at factories along the U.S. border. And as most of our readers are probably aware, in this country alone, there are close to 200,000 reported rapes a year — 91 percent of the victims are female and 99 percent of the rapists are male.
It was feminism that made rape a political issue. It is feminism that has allowed women to even be considered seriously when they express their opinions, when previously they might have been dismissed as hysterics who belonged back in their kitchens.
This lack of awareness suggests a belief system insulated from real world experience and dismissive of the atrocities of history. This comfortable distance grants one the luxury of falsely minimizing feminism’s biggest triumphs.
Feminism has always been about getting people, whether male or female, to recognize women as fully developed human beings in their own right, and not as a complement to the other sex. It is certainly not about getting a free meal with the added bonus of “putting down men.” There is a thoughtfulness required in taking these ideas seriously, and a sensitivity to empathize with the injustices others have endured that seem to be lacking.
Sexism and inequalities, for some, boil down to a handful of trivial manifestations — men feeling “forced” to hold the door open, or women receiving unearned “Amex points.”
What’s lost on some is the recognition that some ideas, such as feminism, are larger than their particular framework of the world and what occurs in their circles. This gross level of shortsightedness, when one reduces a few hundred years of oppression to a “ranting,” arises when there is little familiarity with literature or history. The instinct to remain comfortable is greater than the willingness to step outside one’s self, to try and experience ideas that are different and challenging.
The female thinkers who had the insight to conceive of a deep shift in private and public thought — a vast change that expanded the way individuals thought about women’s personal, professional and political lives — had no interest in enforcing the systematic “preferential treatment” of the female sex. To refer to feminism as “reverse discrimination” is a petty thought.
The issue here, I think, is much bigger than disputing the social and personal value of feminism in a college newspaper.
It’s about inviting people to re-examine a lifetime of unquestioned beliefs in the light of new ideas, not merely listing the visible and implicit benefits of feminism for a small circle of already privileged women whose social positions will almost always ensure their comfort and protection.
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