Blog post written by The Wisest Women Marketing Intern, Liliana Hildebrand.
As a freshman in high school, I found solidarity looking at feminist posts on Pinterest, my life’s purpose in marching band, and my fashion sense in Minion shirts. Four years later, now an Industrial and Systems Engineering major at Texas A&M University, I can thankfully say that is no more. Because now I create feminist content for The Wisest Women and address the sexism in my daily life. What is this movement that has stood the test of time? Merriam Webster dictionary describes feminism as the movement pushing towards “political, economic, and social equality” of males and females . While this seems like a reasonable cause to get behind, it is often with hesitation due to a confusion on what feminism really is. Today we change that.
One of my favorite defenses of feminism is by our own Wisest Woman, Dr. Richa Chandra, who looks at feminism like she looks at kinetics in chemistry. She describes how there are certain basic rights that humans should have that should be on either side of the equation. When at equilibrium, the forward rate of a reaction equals the reverse rate. The goal is to reach an equilibrium for these basic rights on both sides of the equation.
Rightswomen = Rightsmen
Even if we have those same rights, Kathy Caprino in her Forbes magazine article on why feminism is mistrusted, points out that “same does not mean equal.” While reading this article, I wondered why this quote stuck out to me. It is because it reminds me of the Brown vs Board of Education’s notable phrase “separate does not mean equal.” Even though it is defined that we are “not discriminate[d against] based on age, race, or gender”, it does not mean we are perceived as equal, especially in STEM.
I remember coming home for winter break and, while discussing my hopes to get a Master of Public Health in Occupational Safety in a 3 + 2 program offered by Texas A&M, being told to go into finance instead, so I would not have to face the social struggles of women in STEM as harshly. This benevolent sexism claims to save women from pain by warning them. The person who told me to go towards finance was a well-meaning person, but it allows them to be okay with a system that is unfair to women under the pretense that “they signed up for this” and “this is part of the field.” By having this pretense, women are discouraged from standing up for themselves and from trying to climb up the success ladder because they fear the unfair treatment. Unfortunately, this phenomenon goes beyond STEM.
While considering my options for after high school, my cousin, a young, male Navy veteran, who has always supported my dreams, told me that “the military is no place for a woman.” Even though this statement did not change my plans for the future, it stuck with me a year and a half later because it shows how social inequality between men and women is rooted in one of the United States’ most respected institutions.
I have been told that things are getting better, but these examples do not seem to represent the prospect. I have brought this up in conversation and was combated with how my parents’ generation is too set in their ways, so it falls in the lap of mine to make the change happen. What this person fails to understand is that my parents’ generation sets the example for mine. I learned what loving a job looks like from my mom, can I also learn to stay in a marriage for the sake of my kids? It is also unfair to pin the responsibility on future generations because it takes away the responsibility from the people who taught it to them.
Regardless of whether this blog post has inspired you to march in a women’s parade, donate to The Wisest Women, or follow a women-in-STEM Instagram I want to leave you with a challenge: continue reading about feminism, continue exploring your thoughts, and continue noticing sexism in your daily life.