The shift in the social discourse of overall gender equality in the last year has been palpable. This conversation that has simmered in the background for years reached a boiling point when Harvey Weinstein was outted for his misdeeds. The trending #MeToo movement has been met with a slue of backlash from men and women alike, but after months we are still feeling and seeing its effects. There is good reason for it, too. Anything this big, this emotional, this important may falter from the truth with power-hungry people grabbing for any rung or platform they can to get ahead or get revenge, but it’s bigger than them. This current movement is only the latest lightning strike in a storm that’s been brewing for ages, one that may soon see an end. This festering feminism finally broke open, meaning as oppressed women everywhere demand to be taken seriously, our magnifying glass on misogyny brings us closer to an equal playing field than ever before. The groundwork for our now acceptable feminine discourse was laid long before the silence breakers came forward with the #MeToo movement.
I remember thinking when all of this started that people were taking the issue too seriously. This was a diseased reflection of just what is wrong with our culture. As a modern single woman, I have certainly felt the sting of being ignored that comes along with womanhood. People don’t respect your voice as much as men; it’s just plain and simple. From the high horse of the male-dominated societal gaze, woman was for a long time, a joke, an object, something to use and discard. When we women find ourselves in leadership positions and places that demand a strong voice, we have to work harder to prove that we, in fact, are not a joke.
It’s not something people do on purpose, though. Lifetimes of oppression twisted the reality of the strength of women. Chivalry led us to believe that women should subvert all physical tasks to men, but the “death” of chivalry led us to believe that independent women don’t like to be doted on, which isn’t true either. Respect is the key. Oppression steals respect, and no one really wants that.
It seems most human beings want some of the same basic things. Despite a common belief popularized by certain religious bigotry, most people actually want to be good. Most people don’t want to be oppressive and hateful. To most, the thought of oppressing someone else leaves a bad taste in the mouth and as such we wish to separate ourselves from the unequal mindset that objectifies women and vilifies people of color.
So then, calling someone a feminine attribute as a metaphor for weakness, or basing all of a person’s worth on attractiveness, should set off alarms for most of us. The big lie we bought into for awhile, myself included, was that it was all harmless fun. We became accustomed to the disease and accepted it despite the little tug that said it was wrong.
More and more we see minorities and women with major roles in our favorite films and shows. The playing field is leveling and as we get closer to the equality that we crave, just follow one simple rule: be a decent human being.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.