by: Alyssa Ruffolo
While some people may argue that women living in the United States today have equal rights to men, I must disagree. Leaving the law and the technicalities out of the equation, I want to discuss the part society plays in this on a daily basis. Although a woman may say and truly believe that she can do anything a man can do, this is still a statement that should not have to be made. If this were really true, a woman would not still have to be arguing for this case; it would just be assumed.
Let us look at a few examples of how women are oppressed in everyday life. Sexism is prevalent everywhere we go. It is something I take note of every single day. Working in a restaurant is a great example; I am regularly called “hun” “sweetie” and sometimes even whistled at while working. I catch people looking at my chest all the time. There has never been a time when I have seen my male co-workers being addressed or treated in this way. Our uniform consists of dress pants and -when I am scheduled as a busser- I am allowed to wear a plain black shirt or a button-down. Many female bussers who I work with choose to wear a V-neck, short-sleeved black shirt to work. When I first started working as a busser, I wore button-ups. One day I noticed my co-workers wearing short sleeved T-shirts and I realized that maybe this would keep me cooler while I ran around bussing and sweating during work. So, I came in the next shift with a looser-fitting (not ill-fitting, but simply not skin tight) “boyfriend” style black shirt with a regular curved neckline (not a V-neck). Two of my male bosses pointed out my shirt and told me I was not allowed to wear something so loose-fitting. It did not look professional. I had to start wearing the tighter-fitting V-neck shirts, or stick to a button-up. Those were my options. Meanwhile, one of my female co-workers who wore this type of shirt had larger breasts and people were constantly making comments about her chest being out at work. I was enraged by the fact that I was basically being told I had to show off my body at work, although of course it was not made to sound like that at all when it was brought up by my bosses. This is just one small example of how women are constantly being objectified and belittled in their everyday work environment.
Another trend we see in the job market is women flocking towards jobs such as secretaries, elementary school teachers, nurses, waitresses, cashiers, etc. When we hear the word “secretary”, what do we instantly get a mental picture of, a male? Unlikely. Women represent only 14% of executive officers, and half as many women have their doctorates in the United States as do men (the number of women is growing in recent years). Women only make up 17% of the U.S. Congress. Is there a reason that more men than women go into math-related jobs such as engineering? Growing up I was personally told that boys were better at math than girls. Whether this be statistically true or not is irrelevant; hearing that as a young girl definitely put some ideas into my head. Cars and mechanical stuff were always for boys; they were just “naturally” better with coordination. At the age when males and females were still equal in physical ability, I was under the impression that boys were stronger than me and better in sports (Even from the time that we were five years old and this was not relevant yet). As I grew older, I noticed more trends like this. For example, as a teenager it was common knowledge that boys were usually the ones who were allowed to have girls over their houses, while most girls’ parents were stricter about boys coming/sleeping over. Now, of course this varied family to family, but overall this held true. My curfew was always earlier in high school than my brother’s is now that he is that same age. My parents were always worried about me being out late and not being safe, while my brother rode his bike all around the neighborhood and they felt more comfortable with this and assumed he was okay. Now, is this out of good heart? Sure, of course my parents know that girls are more often targeted than boys. However, this impediment on my freedom infuriated me.
I wanted to be able to walk around the neighborhood with a girlfriend and not feel unsafe. I wanted to be able to go for a run alone at night and not have to worry about every car that drove past me and every noise I heard behind me. During the day I didn’t want to have to worry about if my clothing was too tight and if I was going to get honked at or yelled at by passing cars. Many times I would and still choose the gym over running outside for that very reason. I never listen to music when I run because of the many stories I have seen on the news of young female joggers being attacked and raped because they did not hear their perpetrator coming. These are things that many males never have to think or worry about. My boyfriend is able to go for runs in a tight shirt if he pleases or no shirt at all on a busy road and never have to think twice about if he is going to be degraded on his run. Many hot summer days I have wanted to take my shirt off and just run in a sports bra, but I would never feel comfortable doing so because I would inevitably face criticism and/or be called out for it during my run. And no matter how thick a woman’s skin is- these comments and whistles do not bother me anymore or make me feel embarrassed- she should never have to deal with these issues in the year 2017. It just doesn’t make sense. We vote, we work, we are educated, we are body-builders, scientists, and bread-winners, yet we still don’t get the same daily respect as men. Why is this so? I have witnessed my mother speaking on the phone with a man who worked for Peco and overheard him saying, “Sweetie, why don’t you put your husband on the phone?” Even though my mother pays the bills and handles the finances of the house, my parent-plus loan is under Frank Ruffolo. The bills are all addressed to my father. We still say “mailman” “freshman” and “mankind” even though women make up half of this county’s population. The word “lady-like” is still a thing…really?
Having or being intimate with multiple women is still praised among some men, yet do we ever see a magazine cover with a wealthy woman surrounded by half-naked men fawning all over her? Doubtful. Why are men praised for success while women are praised for their physical appearances? “5 Tips of How to Stay Youthful by *insert famous actress here*. Why are beauty pageants still only made up of women? Why isn’t there a Mr. America? Why aren’t there female professional football teams? Why are women’s sports still significantly less popular than male sports? Women are supposed to be “A lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets”.We are still seeing an inequality of workload in the heterosexual nuclear family. Many women today work full-time, yet still do the majority of the cleaning and cooking in the house, and if they have children, still provide the primary care for them. Again, there are many families where the woman and the man do equal work around the house, and homosexual relationships/families vary as well. But we still see this assumption that the woman does the housework in a nuclear family in pop culture and in real life.
So, for all those who believe that women and men are completely equal in American society, take a moment to imagine a society where there are no beauty pageants, bikini model calendars, Victoria’s secret fashion shows, or Playboy bunnies. Instead, imagine that a woman is your local mechanic, your CEO, or that she gave you and your siblings your last name. There are still trends and language patterns that we unknowingly use and encounter every day of our lives. Some may be oblivious to it, some may choose not to recognize it, but women are still treated as unequal in 2017. We do not receive the same overall respect. There are still assumptions and stereotypes that prevent us from living the same way as males, and we will continue to fight it so that (hopefully in my lifetime) we will see these numbers and statistics drastically change.
originally posted: 2/5