Turn Off Autopilot: Inequality Is Our Reality

Unfortunately, disguises won’t get us into office. The United States ranks 81st in the world with respect to women representation in government.

by Katina Hubbard

I’m committed to keeping this website about love and being loved. I believe making concerted efforts to heal and grow ourselves and our relationships is one of the most powerful things we can do to change the world.

HOWEVER. When someone else does the ranting, especially an articulate, well-informed, and inspiring man, I give him mad props. Here are excerpts from Yahsar Ali’s recent article about the state of women in the western world. I hear the message loud and clear: If I stop noticing that I live in a world where men are more often in power, making the rules, and making more money, I’m perpetuating the problem. My awareness of gender inequality is a crucial step to changing the world for myself and my children. Go Yashar, Go!:

“This column isn’t about a lack of gratitude, or not honoring the women (and a few men) who have helped get the gender battle to where it is today. It’s about turning off our auto-pilot and realizing we–in the Western world–still have far to go in the fight for gender equity. Many of us (mostly men) move about so easily in our lives, unaware of the imbalance, but for so many women, they are painfully aware.

This past year, I’ve been told by lots of people that I am ‘too angry,’ when it comes to advocacy for gender equity. It’s funny, because I’ve been angrier before, it’s just my anger had nothing to do with women’s rights, so people didn’t have much to say about it.

As a man, I’ve always been given room to feel angry, but now that I’m addressing something related to women, my anger is now criticized and maligned.

I’m angry that our system of government has been co-opted by one sex, leading to an incredible imbalance in governance.

I’m angry–angry that women don’t see accurate representations of themselves in the media. Angry that the media, at large, has attempted to write off the sexism women face by declaring as The Atlantic did, ‘the end of men,’ when men continue to dominate positions of power and influence.

I’m angry that women’s voices are still muted in many subtle ways.”

So often I hear men tell me that women would be better off if they weren’t so “intense” about women’s rights. I’ve heard men I respect and love infer that the only real problem is the one we’re creating. This used to bring me outrage but I’ve learned to cultivate sympathy. The men telling me this feel powerless.

They’re part of a new generation where they respect their mothers’ careers, admire their female colleagues, and feel inadequate around potential romantic partners. These men don’t feel sympathy for women’s inequality because they know in their hearts that women are equal and sometimes better than them, yet they live in a world where this is not okay. They’re told:  “a real man is always strong, a real man is always the best, a real man doesn’t act weak, a real man doesn’t need a woman.”

I’ve learned to feel sympathy for all men but I refuse to allow any of us to minimize the truth about gender in America. The truth is that men, just by being born, have a head start on every woman they’ll ever meet. Being a man gives them privilege, they can do with it what they want. By choosing to complain about the fact that their feelings are hurt instead of participating in positive language and activities that negate gender inequality, they’re hurting themselves in the long run. By acknowledging the outer truths about reality we empower ourselves to face our inner Truth.

Yashar continues with an illuminating list on the state of gender equality in America. Here are excerpts:

“As long as I share an elevator with two young women who couldn’t be older than 12 and overhear them talk about how they have to cut down on carbs, everything is not okay.

As long as the United States still ranks 81st in the world with respect to women representation in government,

 everything is not okay.

As long as there are only two women in this room, everything is not okay:

As long as women hold just 17 percent of the seats in Congress, everything is not okay.

As long as men still blame women for this gap in Congress by making the claim that more women vote than men, so it’s up to women to vote for women, everything is not okay and not getting better. And if you think this is just about voting, you clearly don’t get it.

As long as there are 31 United States senators who vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act, everything is not okay.

As long as people who hate women, who have waged a war on women, try to gaslight the citizenry by telling us that the phrase “the war on women” is merely a political ploy and not based in reality, everything is not okay.

As long as I see stories about Hillary Clinton’s hair, makeup, clothing when I never see a single story about U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s hair or clothing, everything is not okay and it’s not getting better.

As long as we are told the reality television programs that consistently portray women as conniving, unhinged and erratic are simply a guilty pleasure, and not a destructive misogynistic form of entertainment, everything is not okay.

As long as women have to face street harassment (a.k.a. cat calling) that makes them feel unsafe, humiliated, and degraded, and as long as people wave off this harassment as ‘boys will be boys,’ everything is not okay.

As long as there are magazine covers like this one, where a ‘bachelor’ gets to smile and enjoy the limelight, while the women in the cast are portrayed as crazy, cat-fighting maniacs, everything is not okay:

As long as people say ‘You must be on your period’ to women and men when someone is either a.) speaking their mind or b.) happens to be in a bad mood, everything is not okay.

As long as people (including women) keep using ‘pussy’ to indicate weakness, everything is not okay. Yes, it’s a big deal to continually refer to a woman’s body part in a derogatory way to indicate weakness in anyone or anything.

As long as women lead 40 percent of small businesses, but get less than 10 percent of venture capital funding, everything is not okay.

As long as women only hold 16 percent of board seats on public companies, causing an imbalance in leadership of the companies that employ millions of people across the United States and around the world, everything is not okay.

As long thousands of untested rape kits languish in police departments across the United States, allowing thousands of sexual predators to go unprosecuted, everything is far from okay.

As long as 1-in-4 college women will face, according to the US Justice Department, an attempted or completed rape, everything is not okay.”

He’s mostly looking at the big picture here, but the big picture mirrors the reality that lives inside each and every one of us. We can each do our part to make sure our little world is one in which women and girls feel like they can do anything and be anything they want to, and men and boys know that they are unique, beautiful souls with feelings, weaknesses, and challenges, we are a part of the solution.

Yashar continues:

“This idea that we don’t need to be angry because everything is getting better or because people look at their lives and feel good about where they are, is individualism at it’s worse: ‘Because my life is okay, that means no one like me needs help.’

I feel responsible, as a man, not because I feel that my gender can can save women, but because I am where I am today, in large part, due to male privilege and the sacrifices that women in my life have made for me and for other men.”

Read more from Yashar Ali at the Current Conscious.

I’d venture to say that Yashar feels angry about women’s rights because it’s not actually about women. It’s about human rights. Like my male friends and colleagues who believe they are just as hurt by gender stereotypes. Except Yashar’s doing serving both himself and the world by speaking the truth about women’s rights, from his privileged place as a man. Yes, there are many parts of the solution, not just helping women gain the positions and rights they’ve earned but are denied solely based on their gender. I’m the first to agree – men need empowering too.

Let’s erase gender inequality and stereotypes that our children are born into a world where they can be their precious, unique selves, regardless of their gender, race, or creed.