On Saturday I took my 9 year old daughter down to San Francisco’s Civic Center to participate in the Women’s March. I knew there would be tens of thousands of people there. I knew it would be cold and rainy and the 9yo was unlikely to last the entire time. So why did I bother? Why does it matter? There are a lot of articles out there already, and many of them are written far more eloquently than I could ever manage.

This one in particular sums up my feelings fairly accurately. Yes, by comparison to other countries, women in America have things pretty good. Particularly, it must be noted, middle class white women like myself. I understand my privilege. And yet.

My 14 year old son is safer walking alone on the streets than his mother. In certain situations I worry far less about his safety than I would about my own. Currently he’s right about my size – possibly slightly taller than my 5’8″ but not much. We stand eye-to-eye and are probably within 10 pounds weight-wise. However. Simply by virtue of being a young man, he is safer on American streets than a 37 year old woman. Of this I have no doubt. He doesn’t need to carry mace or keep his keys at the ready. He doesn’t worry about taking a wrong turn and ending up in a dark alley alone at night. And I guarantee you that when he wears headphones on the street, he doesn’t give a second thought to who may be walking up behind him. He’s tall and strong and clearly no longer a child. No one is going to try and grab him. Certainly he is at very low risk of being raped.

Will my daughter be able to take the bus alone at the same age? Our neighborhood is safe. Her school is in an equally safe neighborhood, and there is a direct, generally quiet bus route between them. But she’s a girl. And I can guarantee you that even once she’s a teen I won’t feel as comfortable letting her wander the city alone. It’s not fair. When the time comes, she’ll no doubt point that out. But in our society, women simply aren’t as safe. We aren’t equal. Not in this. And not in countless other ways.

When I was in college, my car needed a belt replaced. Nothing major at all, so just a matter of taking it to the local dealership to get it fixed. Should have been simple. But after an initial visit where the focus was clearly upselling (“you need to also get this done! and also this! and all these other things that were fine when your car was checked out 3 months ago but are suddenly horribly wrong!”) I decided to take a male friend back with me. And wouldn’t you know – suddenly it was no problem to just fix the minor issue I’d requested in the first place.

Do I feel inequality in my daily life?  Not generally. I work in a field dominated by women, in the unique bubble of academia. I live and work in one of the most politically liberal areas of the country. I make good money and I recognize that I’m fairly well insulated from income inequality and harassment in the workplace. I’m lucky in that way.

But I can also recognize that a lot of women aren’t. This isn’t just about me, or women with whom I share socioeconomic status. It’s about all of us. Trans women, lesbians, minority women, women who work in the (many) fields still dominated by men. All of these women face challenges of which I cannot conceive.

We may not want to admit that inequalities still exist, but they do. Maybe not for you. Maybe not for me. But for our neighbors and friends. For marginalized groups who face an uphill battle in so many aspects of their lives.

I want to teach my children the importance of standing up for what’s right, even if it doesn’t affect them personally. Maybe it doesn’t in this moment, but it could someday. Even if it doesn’t ever affect them at all, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care. Look at where a lack of ability to empathize with our neighbors has gotten us.

So that’s why it matters. It matters for them. It matters for my daughter and for her future. It matters for all of us.

One Comment

  1. NonSoccerMom on the 24. Jan, 2017 remarked #

    I should mention that I didn’t reference my husband at all. That’s because it goes without saying that he is an equal partner in all aspects of my life and would never dream of treating any woman as less than his equal.

Leave a Comment