It must stop, and it must stop starting today. Over the past few days, I’ve seen friends and family members argue, name call, and even bring each other to tears. I’ve watched as the media has poked and prodded and tried to stir up hatred and resentment. I’ve read article after article, blog after blog about who is “right” or “wrong” and who is to blame. After a lot of time in thought, prayer, and discussion, I’ve come to realize that we are making enemies of the wrong people and fighting fights in the wrong places.
Hear me out. I applaud the women who marched on Saturday for women’s rights, for the environment, for access to healthcare. I commend those who peacefully used their right to free speech without spewing hatred and disrespect. Our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are great things but can only be effective when directed at the right people, institutions, and causes and done so with respect and a willingness to have an open dialogue.
In the United States of America, women are already equal to men in the eyes of the law. They can vote and hold office; become police officers, military personnel, and CEOs; have the same access to healthcare as men; can obtain driver’s licenses and the same levels of education; are equally protected by the law; and can worship, shop, walk the streets, and do anything else allowed under the law as they please, the same as men. Now before you argue with me, let me reiterate, they can do all of these things in the eyes of the law. That doesn’t mean that they are able to do these things in the eyes of society.
People are comparing Saturday’s march with the marches started by Martin Luther King, Jr. They herald it as the next Civil Rights movement. I would respectfully disagree. You see, when King marched, he did so because the laws were unjust and unequal. That is not the case today. The fight today is not with the government; it’s not even with the President or Congress or the Supreme Court. Sure, there are areas for which the people in those positions can be lobbied, but that won’t change what’s really happening in our culture.
So who is to blame? We are. Society is to blame. That includes our schools that teach that boys are better at certain subjects than girls. It includes the companies that refuse to promote women and refuse to pay them the same rate as their male counterparts. It includes those people who raise their voices in anger asking to be heard but won’t listen to their neighbors. We have become a nation that demands that the government fix everything without really asking ourselves who or what is actually responsible for the problems.
Let me share a story with you. When our youngest was in middle school, she took a test in an effort to advance to a higher level of math. When she learned that she had been denied, we asked why, only to find out that her male teacher didn’t think she could handle it. We pleaded with the principal, arguing that her test and class grades proved otherwise. They would not budge. The teacher had the final say. Throughout 9th grade, Morgan’s female teacher repeatedly told her that she was in the wrong class and needed to see if she could advance. When she learned that she could take an independent math class that would propel her ahead, she was told no even though she met all of the requirements for being able to do so. The reason? Her guidance counselor told Morgan, third in her class, that she was “not smart enough.” My blood still boils when I think about it. We appealed the decision, and with the blessing of the entire math department, Morgan took the class. Not only did Morgan pass the class, she passed with an 86%, no small feat considering the counselor told her she could ask for no help and seek no outside resources. At the same time, a boy in Morgan’s class had already been given permission and was allowed to seek help if needed. I’m quite certain that Morgan’s situation was not unique. The laws are in place ensuring Morgan an equal education. The government played no role in her being allowed to take the class or not. It was Morgan and her parents who took the fight to the next level and ensured that she got what she rightfully deserved.
Here’s another example. I have a good friend who works for a global corporation. Her department is the only one in the entire company that even hires women in high-level positions. She looks around at all of the companies with which they do work, and she sees no women in leadership positions. She is amazed that the mentality still exists today that the corporate world is for men only. The laws provide my friend with equal opportunity employment, but the corporations deny women the access to the jobs and deny the pay that they deserve.
How many times have you heard that men can buy cars for a cheaper price than women? That mechanics charge women more for car repairs than they do men? That service providers look to the man to make the decisions, pay the bill, or be the one “in charge”? Why is it the government’s job to fix this? Why don’t we demand better for ourselves? Why don’t women speak up when the man is the one who is being addressed? Why don’t we ask point blank why prices are lower for our husbands and higher for ourselves? Here’s why – it’s easier to blame the government and argue with each other than to do something to make a real change, to stand up for ourselves to the boss, to appeal to a higher authority, to take the measure to court. Last week, I wrote about the courageous and inspiring women in the movie, Hidden Figures, based on a true story. Those women stood up for themselves, pointed out what was unfair and unjust, sought work at higher levels, challenged the education system, and reaped the rewards for their efforts. And they did it while respecting each other and the other women with whom they worked. And those other women came to respect them as well.
So starting today, I implore you to take a look at your own situation, your daughter’s future, our society, and the world. Honestly, who is it that is to blame for whatever injustice you may be facing in your life? Starting today, figure out who it is you need to talk to, write to, or lobby to ensure that change happens. Starting today, stop asking “what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and your fellow citizens. Starting today, find out what really needs to be done to make life better for your daughters and all generations to come. And starting today, put aside hatred, resentment, disrespect, name calling, and fighting with other women. Starting today, put your best foot forward and show the world that women can achieve everything they want and deserve, and they don’t have to wear hats depicting female genitalia to do it, nor do they have to tear down other women, scream profanities, or threaten to burn down the White House. If you really want to make a change, take a lesson from Civil Rights heroine, Rosa Parks. Take a stand (or a seat) and challenge the right people and the right institutions in the right ways. If we do things the right way, we can achieve anything. We are women. Hear us roar.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines, is a 2017 Illumination Award winner; and her most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.