A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a table in Mason Hall selling cupcakes for a fundraiser of an organization I am a part of. Towards the end of my shift, I was approached by a middle aged white man asking me specifics about the cupcakes. Upon learning about my minor in Women’s Studies, he proceeded to inform me that feminism and the field of women’s studies was no longer needed as both sexes now have equal rights as well as pay. I began to argue back about the complexity of feminism, but I was continuously cut off by his “evidence” based on his sister’s workplace experiences. I also tried to explain how everyone has a different narrative and experience; like how a white woman’s experience will differ from a woman of color. He countered that racism was non-existent and ended by citing Martin Luther King. He further stated that the statistic for sexual assault was grossly inaccurate, claiming the statistic was probably 1 in 50,000 as compared to the current statistic of 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. At this point, I was sitting at the table, in shock of his apparent ignorance and impatient for him to buy a cupcake or allow the growing line of stunned students behind him to buy one.
This is scary. How many times do feminists have to explain why feminism is still necessary, and not man-hating? How difficult is it to understand that feminism address everything from basic human rights to true economic, social, and economic equality between all people? Also, his narrative as a white man would differ from my experience as a woman of color, or any other minority. As a white male, it is completely biased for him to state that racism and sexism no longer exist, since he belongs to a group that has not endured the effects of these two. Just because your direct female relatives have not endured sexual assault does not take away the fact that sexual assault is real.
This occurrence happened to me over a month ago in the days leading up to the election. After the results of the election came out, I became even more frustrated and angry, because it shows that this rhetoric still exists today, and we need to address this. I refrained from writing my reactions about this as I wanted to be calm when writing this piece, not angry, but the truth is, I can never stop being angry about this. I know that not everyone who voted for our current president elect is racist, misogynistic, or bad people in general. What saddens me is that his racist, misogynist and downright offensive comments were not enough for people not to vote for him. Instead of turning our heads away from this rhetoric, we have to accept that it still exists and actively combat it. Instead of fighting and polarizing people with opposite beliefs, we need to have open discussions with them. We need to address that racism, sexism, and sexual assault (as well as many other issues) are real. Looking away from a problem does not erase that the problem exists; it only reinforces the problem and allows it to continue.
University of Michigan, Class of 2019