Mary Tyler Moore passed away today, my dad told me. She was 80. She was a feminist icon to me and many others. As my dad pointed out, “she did more for women’s rights than many people realize.”
In the 1970s, The Mary Tyler Moor Show was “one of the first television shows to feature a never-married, working woman as its central character.” Focusing on topics such as equal pay and female contraception, the show “became a paradigm of the women’s liberation movement.”
On the subject of women’s equality, there’s been a lot of chatter about last weekend’s (World’s) Women’s March and, to be expected, not all of it has been positive. Of course, negative chatter on social media is nothing new, and usually I don’t respond (online). But lately, there have been several social media posts questioning–no, disputing– the need for equal rights movements (Black Lives Matter, Marriage Equality, Women’s Equality).
The negative comments I’ve seen can be divided into three categories:
The first category of comments tends to focus on how terribly protesters behave. They post a video of people at a protest destroying cars, lighting things on fire or throwing bottles and say that this is why people are against protests. It’s all the protestors’ fault. They’re hooligans and the protest is the cause to the violence and shenanigans.
The second category of comments are people who state that there is no point in protesting; protesting does not solve anything. This is a more diplomatic and less extreme type of comment than we see in the first category, but they’re against protesting either way.
The third category of comments I’ve seen focus specifically on the Women’s March and women’s rights in America versus other countries.
So, my thoughts:
Firstly, RE: People at Protests Throwing Shit
These people are crazy. These people are not just angry, they’re acting nuts. And, you’re right; it’s not okay. That said, please do not confuse them with the protesters who are not acting like idiots.
When a student goes into a school and begins shooting people, that does not mean all students are awful and school should be discontinued. That student was not okay.
Secondly, RE: Protesting Doesn’t Solve Anything
Protesting isn’t necessarily meant to be the only means to the end (an exception to this would be some sit-ins). Rather, marches and gatherings are the first series of steps towards the solution.
I quickly researched the history of protests– why we protest, how it started, how it’s changed etc.– and I don’t have any concrete proof of this, but I think protests, first, provide a way for people to visually see how many people share (or don’t share) the same grievances. Hence the term, “demonstration.”
Back in the day (like way, way back), when I imagine newspapers were hardly a thing (especially for the poor or illiterate), people had to talk to one another to hear what was going on. (I know, so weird.) So, they’re all talking and sharing their opinions and some of them are like, “Hey, we don’t agree with what’s going on. We need to bring more people in on this subject. We need to stand on top of this crate and say how we feel.” Or, “We need to march down the street and say what’s up. We need to make sure people know that we’re not all on board with this thing and that we intend to try and change things.”
Okay, so that was then. But we have hip, modern social media for all of our news and opinions and grievances (first world and real world). So, what’s the point in protesting? Is it an antiquated form of communication that only provides hipsters with one more way to act like their in the ’60s? I hope not. And I don’t believe so either. For one, there’s a lot of fluff and noise on the internet. (This blog included?) Protesting (i.e. getting out of bed, getting on a packed train or freeway, making a sign and possibly risking your safety) helps distinguish heavy, important issues. Does the Dip n’ Dots issue need a protest? Nah, let’s keep them on social media (for us to reread and laugh at forever). Do people not having equal rights warrant a complaint? A protest? Of course. Needless to say, the act of coming together builds strength in the cause. It allows others meet one another and motivates more people take further actions (writing to senators,etc.).
Last but not least, RE: I Didn’t March Because I’m Not Oppressed
Good for you. Many people put in a lot of hard work so that you can feel comfortable with your place in the world. I’m glad the marching and protesting (some say, “whining,” but really a whine involves a high-pitched sound, so let’s stick to “protesting”) paid off. It’s a privilege to feel that way, and I envy that you feel this way. I felt this way once too, and I look forward to a day when I can feel equal again. But equal rights for women (and many others) is not a reality in our country. And it needs to be a reality in our country and other countries too. Sure, as a white woman in America, I have things good. I have a lot of the same rights men have. But I do not have all the rights that men do.
We’re getting there. We’ve made huge strides in the last century (Women can vote. Women can obtain a credit card without consent from their husbands.) But there are still many things that are obstacles for women, which you can read more about here.
It’s going to take a while. I remember when Tina Fey won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and in her acceptance speech she spoke about how people seemed to praise her for being one of three women to win this award. To which she remarked that she had hoped that women were achieving things at a rate in which we no longer felt the need to count.
For example, we still have the “Best Female Athletes” list, the “Best Women Writers” lists, the “Top Women in Tech” lists. Those lists were essential as one of the first steps in the process towards equal rights. We needed to draw attention to the fact that (duh) women can accomplish great things too. Do I think it’s dumb and sad that we need to state this? Yes. Just like I think it’s dumb and sad that we need to state that black lives matter. It’s not only frustrating that these things need to be stated in the first place, but that they still need to be stated. Many of us hoped that we would have been farther along in this process. That we could stop stating the obvious. Stop with these “Best Women” lists and move towards a “Best” list that would naturally include women and men of different colors.
But we’re not there. It’s a slow and long fucking process. We need to change thousands of years of thinking. We need to change laws. We need to change the way we act and even the way we converse. (“Grow some balls” needs to change to “Be strong.” And calling people pussies and cunts as an insult isn’t any better than calling someone gay.) There are a million large and tiny things for us all to change.
I get it, maybe some people are tired. Maybe they’re fine with the rights they have. Maybe they’re just not into protests or vocalizing grievances. Maybe it seems like these equal-rights-seekers are beating a dead horse. But trust me, that horse isn’t dead.
Sorry, that’s a bad phrase (since beating horses seems to fall into aforementioned “acting nuts” category.)
What I mean to say is, we haven’t crossed the finish line and gained equal rights. I envy those who feel free, who don’t feel oppressed; those, who do not see a finish line, let alone the need to cross one. I wish you well, and appreciate that you will not get in the way of those of us who will continue to march for everyone else to not only feel equal, but know that they are so.