Last year, after a long day at work at the Christmas market, I found myself on the train home with two colleagues. We didn`t know we would all be on the same train, and we generally all like each other as human beings, so this was a nice surprise.
These two colleagues, both male, are both history buffs. One is a history teacher, one is studying to be a history teacher. You`d think they know their stuff, right?
One of them, the student, was complaining about how they have to write an essay in class about a famous figure from history. The downside was not that it was boring, no, the downside according to him was that the men in his class had to write about a famous woman, and the girls had to write about a famous man. And being a man himself, “women just aren`t that interesting.”
Knowing he`s as straight as the average road in America (seriously, you can play chess on your maps, all straight lines), this line struck me as weird. Women aren`t interesting? Say what?
I asked him to explain why he thought so, since I can name several very interesting and important women just from the top of my head, and I never even studied this.
“Thing is, women just didn`t do anything interesting in history. As a guy, it`s much more interesting to write about other guys.”
This is not the first time this happened at this specific workplace. It`s definitely not the first time I came across blatant inherent misogyny in my 24 years of being on this lump of rocks in space. In another job, I wasn`t allowed to place any orders or make any decisions, and neither were any of the other women. Only the two men that worked there were allowed to do any of this.
When I talked to a female colleague about the history student with the essay on female figures, she laughed about the two of them acting gay, and was then surprised I knew female historical figures and their achievements just like that. “Why do you learn things like that anyway?”
The bigger question is: why don`t we all? Why isn`t anyone taught in school what women have done in history?
Did you also know women did not have the right to vote in Switzerland until 1971? Did you know there`s a list of “women`s firsts”, with women achieving things like winning nobel prizes, which, if you think about it, is silly that we need such a list in the first place.
As said in this article (that also, incidentally, inspired this post you`re reading right now), without women modern society would not have existed. We would not have had baskets, or things to carry stuff around in, or nets to catch fish with. Women have invented a lot of the most important things in the world, despite being held back at every opportunity there is. Women have for a long time not been allowed to have education, jobs, women were not allowed to vote, were just seen as objects to be there for the men, to be pretty, and to produce offspring. And despite all that – and often at the same time as doing exactly all of that – we discovered nuclear fission, we discovered nuclear radiation, we developed the first computer programming. We invented agriculture.
Yet even today, in 2014, the 21st century, with all our modern technologies and our great progress in just about anything, there are insane amounts of discrimination against women. Even here in the Netherlands, women get paid less than men, despite it being illegal. In fact, Dutch news broadcaster NOS wrote an article last year that the gap between men and women in the Netherlands has increased instead of decreased.
Last year in Texas, the Senate banned and confiscated tampons, maxipads, and other “potential projectiles”, despite allowing guns inside the courtroom at the vote for the abortion law.
Finland, one of the leading countries in diminishing the gap between women and men, didn`t have a woman president until the year 2000. Neither the Netherlands or the US have had women leading the country yet.
Even in a progressive environment as YouTube, where feminism, (acceptance of) homosexuality, and strange hair colours are almost a prerequisite to becoming a YouTuber, there is a surprising lack of female famous YouTubers. Yes, there are a lot of female YouTubers, but compare it to the guys, and there`s suddenly a distinct gap in the numbers. Look at the science vloggers, and it gets even worse.
It`s said that there`s a third wave of feminism going around right now, one that is mostly digital (fitting, in our digital age). I am definitely one of these feminists. As are other famous people like Tina Fey, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and most notably: Beyonce. The list just goes on and on. And in all honesty? Everyone should be a feminist.
Feminism has become a dirty word, something associated with women running around naked and burning bra`s, a word associated with unruliness, with obnoxious women, with misandry.
It`s time we take the word back, and give it back its true meaning: equality for both genders. Equal opportunities, equal pay. No more erasure of 51% of the population from the history books. Let`s teach all the girls around the world what they`re capable of.
And we have to make this global. None of this #solidarityisforwhitewomen. Solidarity is for everyone, never mind what skin colour, hair colour, gender, origin.
Here, have some more links to people who have said all of this much better than I ever can. Feel free to add more links in the comments below!
We should all be feminists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDxEu
Beyonce has turned feminism into an all-powerful marketing tool
Patriarchy in action: the New York Times rewrites history
NPR: Casting Call: Hollywood Needs More Women (transcript)
Empire: There is no excuse for misogyny in space
Make An Apology Video, Nash Grier (RE: WHAT GUYS LOOK FOR IN GIRLS)
Becoming Youtube #7: Girls on Youtube
(Famous) modern feminists:
And some links to brush up your knowledge on women in history: