We stand less than a week away from the ability to cast a vote for a female candidate in the U.S. presidential election. 96 years after women were given the right to vote. 44 years after Title IX prevented discrimination against women in a federally funded education program.
You may be thinking that dirty word in your head: feminism. You may be thinking you want to stop reading.
Despite the numerous understandings and approaches to feminism, at its core, it is about equality. If feminism is a dirty word, so is equality.
Objective measures show the gains that have been made towards equality. In 1948, women were 28.6% of the labor workforce. In 2015 they were 46.8%.
In 1962, just 47.5% of women completed high school and only 6.7% of women completed 4 years of college or more. By 2012, 50 years later, 88% of women completed high school with 30.6% of women completing college.
Objective measures also show the gains that still need to be made towards equality. Men represent 81% of the boards of publicly traded companies. In 2014, women earned on average 78.6% of men’s median annual earnings. While women make up less than 1 in 3 CEOs.
Then there are subjective measures: like my inability to run without being hollered at or concerned that a car is following me a little too closely. My husband verified (only the most scientific measures here) neither have ever happened to him while running. He says it is because he is not traditionally attractive. I beg to differ.
When I learned my third and final child would be another boy, I was excited to add a third boy to our family. I was also disappointed to never show a daughter what women can do.
Within days I came across a Shriver Report study. The study surveyed 818 men. It asked men which qualities they want most in their wife and those they want most in their daughter.
The top qualities valued in an adult daughter were: 1) Intelligent (81%), 2) Independent (66%), 3) Strong (48%) and 4) Principled (35%).
The top qualities valued in a wife / female partner were: 1) Intelligent (72%), 2) Attractive (45%), 3) Sweet (34%) and 4) Independent (34%)
Besides the study revealing that I make a more desirable daughter than a wife, the study also revealed that the roles were distinctly valued. The stark difference was tied to independence. While it was in the top 4 for both, that statement alone is deceiving. There was a 32% swing in that quality. Of the top two to three qualities most desired by men, 66% of men chose it for a daughter, while only 34% chose it for a wife.
Intelligence fared well for wives and daughters. But there was a discrepancy in the value of being attractive and strong. The men surveyed wanted their wife to be the former and their daughters to be the latter.
I was looking at my three sons and zero daughters all wrong. Showing a son what women can do is just a important as showing a daughter what women can do.
Girls see it. Girls know. I was failing myself and my sons, by not realizing that boys need to see it and boys need to know it too.
My perspective changed instantly. I welcomed the task before me. Not only do I want to raise smart, strong and kind young men who respect women, but I want that to run further than our common understanding of respecting a woman. I want them to admire and seek out these traits in women.
Feminism is not just about women rallying for equality. Feminism is about all rallying for equality. Inequality does not impact women alone. It impacts the men in their lives: their fathers, spouses, brothers, friends and sons.
Where I was once disappointed at missing the opportunity to show a daughter what a woman can do, I am now committed to the opportunity to show my sons what a woman can do.
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