A Response to Dina Leygerman

Most of you have probably read “You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.” from Sleep.Eat.Write. The normal text is from her post, the bold is my response. I write this with all due respect and apologize for any “sassiness.” It’s who I am :) Thank you for your time.

Source: https://medium.com/@dinachka82/about-your-poem-1f26a7585a6f#.yvi4ruyud

“Say thank you. Say thank you to the women who gave you a voice. Say thank you to the women who were arrested and imprisoned and beaten and gassed for you to have a voice. Say thank you to the women who refused to back down, to the women who fought tirelessly to give you a voice. Say thank you to the women who put their lives on hold, who –lucky for you — did not have ‘better things to do’ than to march and protest and rally for your voice. So you don’t feel like a ‘second class citizen.’ So you get to feel ‘equal.’”

Yes, thank you, leaders of First-Wave Feminism. Thank you for standing up for what is right. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for the freedom you have given future generations. We are forever grateful for your courage, your grace, and your historical contribution to society.

“Thank Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul for your right to vote.”

Agreed.

“Thank Elizabeth Stanton for your right to work.”

Ditto.

“Thank Maud Wood Park for your prenatal care and your identity outside of your husband.”

Amen.

“Thank Rose Schneiderman for your humane working conditions.”

Hell, yeah.

“Thank Eleanor Roosevelt and Molly Dewson for your ability to work in politics and affect policy.”

Absolutely, yes.

“Thank Margaret Sanger for your legal birth control.”

Ayeeeee.

“Thank Carol Downer for your reproductive healthcare rights.”

Your educational contributions to vaginal self-exams and menstrual extractions have promoted immense independence for women’s health.

“Thank Sarah Muller for your equal education.”

Much obliged.

“Thank Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Shannon Turner, Gloria Steinem, Zelda Kingoff Nordlinger, Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Malika Saada Saar, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Ida B. Wells, Malala Yousafzai. Thank your mother, your grandmother, your great-grandmother who did not have half of the rights you have now.”

I concur.

“You can make your own choices, speak and be heard, vote, work, control your body, defend yourself, defend your family, because of the women who marched. You did nothing to earn those rights. You were born into those rights. You did nothing, but you reap the benefits of women, strong women, women who fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy and fought for you. And you sit on your pedestal, a pedestal you are fortunate enough to have, and type. A keyboard warrior. A fighter for complacency. An acceptor of what you were given. A denier of facts. Wrapped up in your delusion of equality.”

Time out. You tell me about all the rights I now have because of women in the past, then call me delusional- as if in reality I have no rights at all. And what are these “facts” you claim I am denying? Is anyone else confused here? You think I “did nothing to earn” the rights I have as a woman today? I deserve rights simply because I exist; because I am a human being; a living, breathing creature on this Earth. Men and woman were born with rights- whether or not they were allowed those rights at various points in history- and the women who fought for those rights are the reason I have them, not the reason I deserve them.

“You are not equal. Even if you feel like you are. You still make less than a man for doing the same work. You make less as a CEO, as an athlete, as an actress, as a doctor. You make less in government, in the tech industry, in healthcare.”

Actually, you make the same amount of money, on average, as a man, for the same amount of work, for the same amount of time, for the same career. The “70 cent” wage gap doesn’t take any contributing factors into consideration. For example, women on average work fewer hours than men. *This does not mean they are less capable, it simply means that they are more likely to work fewer hours overall, for various reasons* Women also take more time off for maternity leave than men do for paternity leave- which is hardly even recognized as legitimate (how’s that for sexist?) Additionally, men on average (I feel I must keep emphasizing this term to avoid accusations of generalizing a sex) go into higher paying career fields than women- although this has recently begun to balance out, which is a great advancement! Good job, ladies!

“You still don’t have full rights over your own body. Men are still debating over your uterus. Over your prenatal care. Over your choices.”

Actually, you do have full rights over your own body. Abortion is legal in this country. And, even if it wasn’t, the rights you would be losing are those of the body growing inside of yours, not your own body, itself. And, might I add, there are countless pro-life women debating over abortion, as well. Do not act as if the pro-life movement is merely made up of “old white men” who want to control women’s reproductive freedoms. People of every age, race, sexuality, religion, gender, and class identify with the pro-life movement. And stop with the “No uterus, no opinion” chants. An unborn child is the father’s as well as the mother’s. Now, of course a women should have more of a say in her pregnancy than a man (she is the one carrying the growing fetus around 24/7 for some 30-odd weeks, after all), but certainly a man’s testicles should not completely block him off from having any rights whatsoever regarding the life and wellbeing of his offspring. If they did, that would be awfully discriminatory, don’t you think?

“You still have to pay taxes for your basic sanitary needs.”

Okay, this one’s a little more tricky: Yes, the majority of this country taxes all personal property, with the exception of “necessities.” These include food, medicines, and clothes. Without food, you will die. Without medication (for some), you die. Without a winter coat, you die. Without tampons, you…are very messy, uncomfortable, and often unable to do things in public, such as work at your job, without leaking from your pants and trailing blood behind you with every step. But you do not die. I am not saying feminine hygiene products are not extremely helpful or that they are “unnecessary,” but in the context of the tax laws, they do not fall under the “necessity” category. Yes, welfare and food stamps should absolutely cover feminine hygiene products, and especially be more accessible to the homeless (that’s a whole other issue), but, from what I understand, the main reason people are upset over tampon taxes is because of the seemingly unfair lack of taxing on male products, such as Viagra. This is certainly a medication I would not put under the “necessity” category of property taxing, but the solution here is not to stop taxing tampons, but to start taxing Viagra.

“You still have to carry mace when walking alone at night. You still have to prove to the court why you were drunk on the night you were raped. You still have to justify your behavior when a man forces himself on you.”

Women do not have to carry mace around at night because of “gender inequality.” Women feel the need to carry mace around at night because we live in a world with many evil people. A man walking alone down a dark alley at night is in danger, as well, especially in high-crime cities. Evil has no bias. Evil claims victims as the opportunity presents itself. In a court of law, you are not asked to “prove” why you were drunk the night you were raped or sexually assaulted. You may be asked if you were intoxicated, yes. Whether you like it or not, this is a valid question. Alcohol can take a strong toll on one’s memory. This does not mean you are lying. This does not mean you deserved it. This does not mean it was your fault. It is simply necessary to take all known factors into account, and make the best judgment based on the information subsequently gathered. If and when a crime does occur, the victim is not to blame- the rapist is, and should absolutely be prosecuted if sufficient evidence is presented. Is the judicial system perfect? Of course not. Was the Brock Turner case an insult to rape victims everywhere? Absolutely. Is this the norm? No. While the media likes to portray stand-out cases as ordinary, the truth is that we do not live in a rape culture. In India, rape within marriage does not exist in the eyes of the law. If a man forces himself on his wife four times a day, every day, he has violated no law. Rape videos and recording are sold on street corners in broad daylight for mere cents while legal officials turn the other way with “more important” crimes to worry about. When rapists are convicted, they can greatly lessen their sentence by marrying their victims. This is rape culture. Here in America, the majority of convicted assailants go to jail. They are not praised. They are not idolized. They are not encouraged to offend again. Rape is not glorified in America. Do assholes exist who resort to victim blaming? Unfortunately, they do. But these are an ignorant minority who do not represent the ideals of this country.

“You still don’t have paid (or even unpaid) maternity leave. You still have to go back to work while your body is broken. While you silently suffer from postpartum depression.”

Hmm. I’m a bit lost with this one, because we actually do have (unpaid, mostly, but paid in some cases) maternity leave with the FMLA (Thanks, President Clinton). It certainly has some limiting factors/requirements, but it does exist- and is much more socially “accepted” than paternity leave. (Hey, look! More discrimination against males!) If you want to get into having to come back to work while suffering from a mental illness (PPD or otherwise), that’s a discussion for another day- but it’s not related to supposed gender-inequality, so it’s irrelevant to this issue.

“You still have to fight to breastfeed in public. You still have to prove to other women it’s your right to do so. You still offend others with your breasts.”

Yep, I’d have to agree with you on this one. When a woman is breastfeeding, she is using her breasts in a completely non-sexual manner. I blame this one (as I do most of society’s problems) on the media. Rarely is nudity shown in a context related to something other than sensuality- for both men and women. As for the “free the nipple” movement, in general- this also is an entire issue of its own, and I can relate to both sides of the argument. We’ll save that one for another time, but I will say I do not believe it to be a simple matter of sexual discrimination; the issue goes much deeper.

“You are still objectified. You are still catcalled. You are still sexualized. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You’re still told you’re too old or too young. You’re applauded when you ‘age gracefully.’ You’re still told men age ‘better.’ You’re still told to dress like a lady. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. What brand bag you have still matters more than your college degree.”

Absolutely, you are objectified, sexualized, and catcalled. You and your bikini-clad sisters are pasted on posters, magazines, and advertisements. But this is not a female problem- it is a human problem. For every Alexis Texas compilation, there is another for James Deen. For every female Victoria’s Secret model with round, perky breasts, there’s a male Calvin Klein underwear model with an equally impressive bulge. These ads don’t sell clothes because they emphasize how high quality the fabric is- they are successful because consumers see the sexy model wearing the garb and are drawn towards it, often even hoping that purchasing the item will make them look and feel as sexy as the model in the ad. Think about it: people didn’t buy tickets to Magic Mike because of the wholesome storyline or the characters’ personalities. They bought them to watch Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and other famously hot men grind in their underwear for an hour and fifty minutes. I also find it quite interesting that many of the so-called-feminists today are the same people who idolize celebrities like Kim Kardashian- a woman almost solely famous for posting racy, suggestive, and even nude pictures on social media, and worshiped for it. And don’t tell me these photos were taken to “promote body positivity.” They were taken to objectify, to sexualize, to make men (and women) want to “tap that.” Moving on, both women and men are criticized for their weight. Both women and men are judged on appearance. As for the final comment in the above paragraph- I don’t know who you talk to or where you live, but go to any, and I mean any job interview with no college degree in your hand but a brand new Prada bag on your wrist and see what happens.

“You are still being abused by your husband, by your boyfriend. You’re still being murdered by your partners. Being beaten by your soulmate.”

Damn. Honestly I’m pretty shocked at this one. Women are far from the only victims of domestic violence. Millions of people- men, women, and everything in between- are victims of domestic violence every year in this country. And ladies, if he/she is beating you, they are not your “soulmate.”

“You are still worse off if you are a woman of color, a gay woman, a transgender woman. You are still harassed, belittled, dehumanized.”

As are you equally worse off as a black man, a Hispanic man, a gay man, or a transgender man.

“Your daughters are still told they are beautiful before they are told they are smart. Your daughters are still told to behave even though ‘boys will be boys.’ Your daughters are still told boys pull hair or pinch them because they like them.”

Again, I feel like you’re making a major generalization, and I’m not sure who raised you, but I am very sorry you feel that your beauty was valued over your brains. This does not, however, represent America as a whole. So please, do not tell me how my own daughters were raised, or what morals I instilled in them from a young age. That’s all I have to say for this one…

“You are not equal. Your daughters are not equal. You are still systemically oppressed.”

You are of equal worth. Your daughters are of equal worth. This equality is systematically represented as a whole, but there will always be individuals who defy the moral compass, and they are the ones who get all the attention and media coverage. That’s how this world is.

“Estonia allows parents to take up to three years of leave, fully paid for the first 435 days. United States has no policy requiring maternity leave.”

Again, this is a general issue- it’s not sexist.

“Singapore’s women feel safe walking alone at night. American women do not.”

This is a major generalization. There are numerous accounts of Singapore women who, contrary to popular belief, do not feel safe at night, and tons more women here in America who do. It’s also important to recognize that the population of the United States is over 60 times larger than that of Singapore. Just saying…

“New Zealand’s women have the smallest gender gap in wages, at 5.6%. United States’ pay gap is 20%.”

ENOUGH WITH THE WAGE GAP, IT’S A LIE! And I thought the general consensus was 70 cents on the dollar…that’s thirty percent…now you’re saying twenty…so which is it? (Hint: the answer is neither.)

“Iceland has the highest number of women CEOs, at 44%. United States is at 4.0%.”

Iceland has a population of less than 325,000 people! (An even larger gap than that between the U.S. and Singapore.)

“The United States ranks at 45 for women’s equality. Behind Rwanda, Cuba, Philippines, Jamaica.”

If the above conclusion was drawn from the same “facts” you mention throughout your essay, this number does not surprise me. But honestly, if it’s truly so bad here, why is everyone else desperate to get in?

“But I get it. You don’t want to admit it. You don’t want to be a victim. You think feminism is a dirty word. You think it’s not classy to fight for equality. You hate the word pussy. Unless of course you use it to call a man who isn’t up to your standard of manhood. You know the type of man that ‘allows’ ‘his’ woman to do whatever she damn well pleases. I get it. You believe feminists are emotional, irrational, unreasonable. Why aren’t women just satisfied with their lives, right? You get what you get and you don’t get upset, right?”

Feminism is not a dirty word. It began as a beautiful movement fighting for equality between men and women. Unfortunately, its definition has taken a turn in the 21st century. It no longer means what it used to mean. Fighting for equality is classy as hell. The problem, today, is that true equality is no longer what your standard feminist is about.

“I get it. You want to feel empowered. You don’t want to believe you’re oppressed. Because that would mean you are indeed a ‘second-class citizen.’ You don’t want to feel like one. I get it. But don’t worry. I will walk for you. I will walk for your daughter. And your daughter’s daughter. And maybe you will still believe the world did not change. You will believe you’ve always had the rights you have today. And that’s okay. Because women who actually care and support other women don’t care what you think about them. They care about their future and the future of the women who come after them.”

I appreciate your vow to fight for my rights and the rights of women after me. Really, I do. The thing is, people, such as yourself, like to blow gender-inequality in the U.S. way out of proportion, thus drawing attention away from the issues that truly need our help right now. And I do care. I do support other women. I do care about the future of this country- for everyone’s sake. Please remember that.

“Open your eyes. Open them wide. Because I’m here to tell you, along with millions of other women that you are not equal. Our equality is an illusion. A feel-good sleight of hand. A trick of the mind. I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not equal. And neither are your daughters.”

Yes, Dina, we are equal. And I would be careful how I phrase things if I were you. I assume what you are trying to convince those who read your post is that women are equal to men, but that they are not treated as such in this society. However, your wording above seems to imply that women literally are not equal. But then again maybe I’m just being nit-picky at this point. (Sorry, it’s been a long week.)

“But don’t worry. We will walk for you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you. And one day you will actually be equal, instead of just feeling like you are.”

I truly wish you all the best in your journey. I do, however, hope that you do not go about it continuing to spread lies, misinformation, and unsupported statistics as your defense. Have a lovely day, and remember that “all [wo]men are created equal.” Thank you.

“~ Dina Leygerman, 2017”

~Anonymous, 2017