A few weeks back we had a debate in my Economics class about the extent to which gender inequality would limit the economic growth or development of a country. Growing up in an international environment exposes you to pretty much all sorts of opinions, which are obviously going to clash with your own once in a while. But some remarks made by classmates, in this case, were probably equivalent to those students would have made in the medieval ages, had the class been held then.
Examples included comments such as “I can completely understand if firms don’t hire women. Their sexual harassment rates would just go up. Women are simply too sensitive.” Of course I could go on a rant about all that is wrong with this attitude, but there was something that shocked me even more: the little outrage expressed by the females in my class.
When gender-privileged males who have grown up in a society that promotes all kinds of misogynistic attitudes throw around statements like the one above, I become furious. And I make that clear. But what honestly bothered me was that almost every single girl sat back and didn’t say anything. I can almost guarantee that every one of my female classmates thought at least once, “Oh well, I kind of disagree with this,” or, “Hey, wow that was pretty unfair/harsh.”
So my question is: “Why don’t you speak up?”
I suppose I can answer that question myself. It’s scary. I know it is. I know because I usually am the only one fighting for my right to have an equal society. It is usually me against the world. I am fighting misogynists of all kinds of intellectual competence and debating experience. I know this often gets me the title of being an “over-reactive bitch.” I know this makes me a target for tyrants trying to disprove and humiliate me. I know that when you point out their offensive jokes, it isn’t what most guys find sexy. Sometimes I honestly consider just swallowing all the crap and not saying anything; at least I’d save myself some stress. But I just can’t. I just can’t let it slide. In the end, I am always proud of fighting for my principles.
Especially in my school, the word “feminist” has a particularly negative stigma attached to it. It’s something students don’t want to be labeled as. Students and teachers tend to look at me like I am some kind of exotic animal when I say that I am a feminist. They think it’s amusing that I try and fight degrading remarks and insulting comments against my gender: “Hahaha, look how she’s getting angry at this again.”
It shouldn’t be the exception to fight against inequality – it should be the norm.
But in order to make it the norm, the negative stigmas attached to feminism have to be broken. How can we expect to change inequality if the majority of us don’t even support our own gender? There is much too little done to show girls my age and younger what it actually means to be a feminist. For too many years have society and pop culture decided the roles. I will continue to be an over-reactive bitch and point out as much sexism as I want to, and convince as many people as I can to speak up when something is unfair – until it is the norm.
Katharina Lotz is an 18 year old German-Austrian student who was born in Dubai and has lived there for almost all her life. She is currently attending an international school and hopes to study law in the UK next year. You can follow her Tumblr here: http://superfluorescent.tumblr.com.