In today’s society, there is a great struggle for equality between the sexes. Feminists face challenges from every angle; at home, within their circles of friends, with their partners and in the media. But there is one unexpected threat - opposition or setback from within their own gender.
It is a large misconception that men and men alone perpetuate gender bias, sexism and promote rape culture (rape culture: A concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape). It is becoming apparent that women are playing a part in it as well.
As women, we grow up in a society which dictates what we are to wear, how to act, and how to think. From this conditioning, many of us are quick to judge others of the same sex if they do not conform to the “rules” that our largely misogynistic society has set in place. Many of us are guilty of contributing to a sexist, misogynistic and prejudiced way of thinking. Ask yourself if you have ever done any of the following:
· Judged a woman/girl on appearance alone
· Called a woman/girl a “slut”
· Made an assumption about a woman’s sex life or sexual orientation based on her clothing
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, don’t feel bad. Many women have learned this behavior from friends and family, even their own mothers. I admit I am guilty of it myself, and it has taken much effort to realize the damage I cause to the fight for gender equality when I think or speak this way. When we allow ourselves to follow these imaginary rules and fall into the stereotypes, we are telling society, this is okay. Women should be treated as objects, assessed and criticized. We confirm the notion that a woman is a “certain way” and deserves a particular type of treatment due to her appearance, which inevitably contributes to society’s toleration and normalization of rape. We help rape culture continue to grow.
What can you do?
It seems simple. Think before you speak. Think about the thoughts that enter your mind before they even get there – are they judgmental? Stop them in their tracks. We don’t have the right to make assumptions about anyone without knowing them. Remember that part of feminism is the freedom for women to choose who they want to be, what they want to wear and how they want to act without fear of persecution.
Don’t be afraid to spread the word. If you witness this kind of stereotyping and prejudice, say something!
Contribute to Delta Women. Start your own blog. Tweet something, make pamphlets, educate – anything!
If we all do our part, no matter how difficult it may be, we will be successful. Only when we present a united front will we achieve true gender equality.
By Jennifer Andrews