by Jennifer R. Keup
Back in November of 2014, I wrote a piece for this blog that represented a brief departure from the important posts and exchanges about equity, leadership, and feminism that take place in this forum. The piece was a satirical “rant” on the day-to-day feminist struggles and reminders of the gendered nature of our social systems and interpersonal habits. You all indulged me with that post, so I hope another one along those lines but with video clips will similarly capture your interest. As such, here is the second installation in the occasional series meant to highlight “feminist pet peeves.”
Double standards: When I first saw this advertisement for Pantene, I was absolutely, tears-in-my-eyes, and goosebumps-on-my-arms blown away. It so perfectly captured all of the terrible and persistent double standards that women face in general and that seem to be exponentially greater for women in leadership roles. I know that I have personally experienced several of these “delightful” labels and, even at my strongest and most empowered moments, they have taken a toll upon my psyche (you can imagine what they have done to me in moments when I struggle with imposter syndrome). Language is powerful. So, it is important that we use it to advance messages of equity and not reinforce double standards.
Unequal pay: Sadly, whether in the board room or on the soccer pitch women are still systematically paid less than men. There is a school of thought that this is due largely to different career decisions that are correlated with gender. However, the pay differential typically persists even when men and women are in the same position, possess equivalent professional credentials, and have followed a similar pathway to their leadership role. We have work to do so that we can stop “celebrating” Equal Pay Day each year in early April as the day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year.
“Like a girl”: When did doing something “like a girl” become an insult? I am not sure when I noticed this phenomenon but it seems to have been a troubling and consistent theme for the several decades of my lifetime. Should we consider it a sad form of progress that women’s performance on athletic fields, classrooms, clubs, and board rooms went from unnoticed to acknowledged but “lesser than”? Further, it seems as if there is no quicker and more effective insult to a man than to tell him he does anything “like a girl.” It is my dream that my sons may someday hear this term and think of the towering female role models in our society today (and maybe their mom too) and say “thanks!”
Feminist as a “dirty” word: As I mentioned earlier, language is powerful. So, I understand people’s caution at the labels they choose and use for themselves. However, I am baffled by how often individuals at all points on the gender spectrum shun the word “feminist.” A quick look at dictionary.com identifies its definition as “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.” While it may denote a degree of agency and responsibility, there doesn’t seem to be anything innately offensive, upsetting, or even exclusive about the term. I agree with Justin Trudeau’s, Prime Minister of Canada, statement in this video: we need to keep using this word until there is no reaction other than “of course!”
So, there you have it, my feminist friends. Now it’s your turn. Share some of your favorite video clips that highlight your feminist pet peeves or feature inspiring messages about equity and empowerment. We welcome your comments!