By Jane Bauer
Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. … It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
How relevant is the feminist movement today and how pervasive is gender inequality?
I have found myself trying to answer this question often in the past few years. While I was growing up there was a certain amount of what became termed victimization attached to the feminist voice as statistics of domestic abuse and sexual harassment were recounted. I recall the ‘walksafe’ program at my university that it was expected women would call if they needed to walk after dark. And if you didn’t call and something happened, well, then you were to blame. However, the world is also a dangerous place for men and if we relied on data we would see that many men also face harassment and violence. More men than women go to war or join law enforcement or go to prison.
Women hold more political and economic power than in the past – not all over the globe, but in many developed countries. It has been suggested to me in social situations that gender inequality is hardly a main global concern. And yet I still believe it is. I believe it because of the women I know in rural Mexico who struggle to go to school. I believe it when I browse the internet and see women’s bodies sexualized in advertising and popular cultural.
Is all fear and danger equal? I recently read a wonderful short story called “The Wind” by Lauren Groff about a woman running away from her abusive police officer husband. The narrator is the daughter of one of the children and the final paragraph was so moving and poignant that I cried because I recognized this fear that I had been unable to put into words.
“The three children survived. Eventually they would save themselves, struggling into lives and loves far from this place and this moment, each finding a kind of safe harbor, jobs and people and houses empty of violence. But always inside my mother there would blow a silent wind, a wind that died and gusted again, raging throughout her life, touching every moment she lived after this one. She tried her best, but she couldn’t help filling me with this same wind. It seeped into me through her blood, through every bite of food she made for me, through every night she waited, shaking with fear, for me to come home by curfew, through every scolding, everything she forbade me to say or think or do or be, through all the ways she taught me how to move as a woman in the world. She was far from being the first to find it blowing through her, and of course I will not be the last. I look around and can see it in so many other women, passed down from a time beyond history, this wind that is dark and ceaseless and raging within.”
So let us not compare our heartaches and tragedies, gender inequality isn’t a men vs. women debate. It is about making the world a place where all of us can feel free. Until the wind that Groff writes about is a thing of distant memory, the feminist movement will be relevant.
See you next month,