Karima Hana-Meksem, PhD,Human Beings Development and Leadership
Feminism does not appear to be about strong women anymore, indeed the feminist battles have completely shifted. The quest for fairness and respect seems to have been reduced to a vile corporate war between the sexes or a strong campaign to ban the word Bossy or the Barbie doll, in order to empower girls. Why Women can’t have it all? Why Should they? Women are constantly harassed to become more manly, to close the gap, lean in, stand-up, shut-up, and not quit. Women are pushed to dress less womanly, despise motherhood, and forget about the work-life balance, freeze their eggs, or overpower men in society. I always believed that Feminism was about fairness, respect, and understanding All human beings. I thought that it was about celebration and respect of men and women’s differences. Yes, there are differences, let’s face it women and men are very different, everybody knows this undeniable biological truth.Many recent articles seeking to motivate women toward that quest of Equality are in fact depicting a very desperate and weak image of women. By communicating such messages many “influential” women are in reality creating a dangerous need for young women to inevitably feel oppressed and abused by just Being women. We should not dismiss women’s issues and I strongly agree that many serious improvements still need to happen worldwide regarding the division of labor, the way the media portrays women, the breaking of the glass ceiling, social inequalities, violence against women, freedom of speech, right for education… However, current feminists are mostly speaking out about gender equality and career equality without ever referring to all careers. If we are seeking equality, we should seek it for all careers, and not only the ones convenient to women or providing comfortable salaries. Is gender equality today just about money and comfort? What kind of equality is this? Women and men are continually questioning the legitimacy of this so-called “feminism of choice”. This form of feminism selects just some advantageous aspects of the issue. I thought feminism was about fighting for rights and legitimate situations, not the convenient ones. Equality might be difficult to achieve but uniqueness is not. Instead of focusing on hunting for an unfounded and superficial corporate equality, let’s try to concentrate on our uniqueness as men and women deeply equal in our differences. Equality is without a doubt not only about gender, it is more importantly about diversity. The demographic makeup of societies like the United States is rapidly changing and people need to be aware of these deep cultural changes much more than gender disparities. Inequalities in the workplace regarding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion and physical abilities are fundamental and need to be exposed as much as gender inequalities are. Unfortunately, the current so-called feminism movement avoids to acknowledge the impact diversity sadly has on equality because it is so convenient to just ignore it. The same way it is so convenient to always recognize that women are such disadvantaged, and unprivileged human beings. Women naturally have valuable privileges just by being who they are. They do not necessarily need to play catch up with men or bash the opposite sex to feel more valuable. To tell the truth, women appear to have some untold privileges, with that in mind I thought I would share The Female Privilege Checklist (created by Mary Dee Wenniger “Women in Higher Education”, and inspired by Peggy McIntosh and Barry Deutsch). This checklist reminds women of their untold privileges that are slightly different than the powerful corporate guidelines they might use daily but these privileges are not less fundamental. Although, the points made on this list might seem obvious, they are in fact privileges most women enjoy exclusively, and there are so many more. The Female Privilege Checklist 1. I am physically able to give birth to another human being, and then do my best to mold her or him into the kind of person I choose. 2. I am not automatically expected to be the family breadwinner. 3. I feel free to wear a wide variety of clothes, from jeans to skimpy shorts to dresses as appropriate, without fear of ridicule. 4. I can choose to remain seated to meet most people. 5. I am not ashamed to ask for others’ perspectives on an issue. 6. I feel free to exhibit a wide range of emotions, from tears to genuine belly laughter, without being told to shut up. 7. My stereotypical excesses in shopping, clothes, jewelry, personal care and consumption of chocolate usually are expected, even the source of jokes. 8. Public policies generally offer me an opportunity to bond with my offspring. 9. I am among the first to get off a sinking ship. 10. I can usually find someone with superior strength to help me overcome physically challenging obstacles, such as changing a tire or cutting a huge Christmas tree. 11. Changing my mind is seen as a birthright or prerogative. 12. I feel free to explore alternate career paths instead of being bound to a single career ladder. 13. I am used to asking for help, around the kitchen table or the proverbial water cooler or the conference room. 14. People I’ve never met are inclined to hold doors open and give up their seats for me. 15. I can be proud of the skill I have worked to develop at stretching limited financial resources. 16. I am not ashamed of using alternatives to positional power to reach my goals. 17. I know how to put a new roll of toilet paper in use and am not above doing it for the next person. 18. I am not ashamed to admit that the decisions I make reflect my personal values. 19. I am not afraid to create and maintain honest relationships with others. 20. I do not fear being accused of having an ethic of care in my professional life. 21. When I enter an office, I am likely to encounter those who can help me “in low places.” 22. I am more likely to get hugs than handshakes, depending on the situation. 23. I am less likely to be seen as a threat, which allows me more subtle alternatives. 24. I can use men’s “sheer fear of tears” to my advantage. 25. I can complain that these female privileges are relatively minor compared with the vast assortment of dominant male privileges, but I wouldn’t change places for the world.