Why you should care
Because liberals don’t have a monopoly on feminism, argues Mayor Beth Van Duyne.
The author is the mayor of Irving, Texas.
“To the women I see marching in D.C. — I am a woman. I am strong. I am not a victim. I am not afraid. Just thought you should know.”
I posted this message after seeing a woman on her way to the Women’s March wearing a sign across her chest that read “I’m afraid.” My 17-year-old daughter and I were in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration, and those words stopped me in my tracks. When did feminism become about fear instead of strength? What message did this person hope to convey? What significance would this phrase have on millions of young women, including my daughter? I felt compelled to respond, and so I did.
The response from the supposedly tolerant, supposedly progressive left was ruthless, attacking my race, looks and religion. Some even implied I should be sexually assaulted. I have fought my entire life — through word and deed — to advance women. How, then, did I become a nemesis of the current “women’s movement”? Have our political affiliations become so defining that they now override our ability to compromise or even to communicate? Has the “women’s movement” narrowed to the extent that women who aren’t reflexively liberal are automatically disqualified?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a fierce advocate for women’s rights, equality and empowerment. I’ve volunteered at rape crisis centers, chaired women’s health organizations, been on the board of domestic violence shelters, supported young women to run for public office and championed the creation of a women-focused innovation center in my city.
Yet the progressive women who harangued me from the safe space of their keyboards discount these endeavors outright — seemingly because I am conservative, pro-life and have the audacity to voice an opposing opinion.
Despite the fact that women are more independent now than we’ve ever been, it is all too apparent that those who want to preach victimology have hijacked the feminist movement. The “new feminists” are telling us we need to be afraid, that we need to look to the government for more because we can’t succeed on our own, that we are weaker and need more protections. The message the new feminists are sending is that they don’t want us to be independent, empowered and self-sufficient.
What we need is less hand-wringing and grievance-mongering, and more empowerment that encourages younger women to be proud of who they are and what they achieve. Maybe, instead of taking to Twitter and Facebook to show our bitter disdain for those who disagree with us — or encouraging violence in response to speech we don’t like — we grow up.
Here’s what I believe: Women are strong, we are capable, and while some of us may need more support than others depending on circumstances, we have it within ourselves to be fierce proponents and champions of one another and not be victims.
Women have come a long way. There are now more females graduating from college, medical school and law school than males. Today, more women are entering the workforce than men. Barriers to entry have greatly diminished, but women still exit the workforce before advancing to executive levels.
Consider these statistics. Women in our country hold only:
- 19 percent of S&P 500 board seats
- 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO spots
- 20 percent partner status in law firms
- 16 percent deanship in medical schools
- 15 percent mayorship of the 100 largest U.S. cities
Why do these disparities exist? Lack of quality child care, elderly care for sick parents and flexibility to manage competing demands have certainly contributed to a less-than-compatible work environment for women everywhere. Access to affordable career training, safe yet sustainable housing and a supportive ecosystem could make a tremendous difference. Women still have to deal with chauvinism and bigotry from both their supervisors and subordinates — for just the latest high-profile example, check out engineer Susan Fowler’s recounting of her Kafkaesque experiences with harassment and HR at Uber. And don’t even get me started on the double standards (i.e., what passes for “passion” in men is seen as “overly emotional” in women).
Why are we as a gender not focusing on helping to mentor women to earn better jobs, more training, and easier access to child care and quality education? These are issues most of us can support and advocate for. Why is the “women’s movement” so concentrated on the narrow, divisive issue of abortion, to the exclusion of so many other issues where we can find common ground?
Women are over half the population in America. We come from different backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, religions, cultures, experiences — you name it. As diverse as we are, so are our political interests. If pro-abortionists want to have a march, fine, but don’t do so in the name of an entire sex. You don’t get to speak for all of us.
Women have never been as powerful, influential and formidable as we are right now. Let’s stop with the name calling, the body shaming and the angry empty protests. Instead, let’s agree to disagree on certain issues while working together to advance issues that actually matter to women’s quality of life across this nation.