By: Madelyn Starritt
Women’s issues are constantly battled for and against. There are fights to improve policies and situations and, often these issues are not taken seriously and pushed to the side. Things like the wage gap, the focus on a woman’s appearance instead of her knowledge, not including women in decisions and legislation about abortion rights, blaming rape victims, and so much more. These women are considered to just be whining and aren’t taken seriously. That is, until a man brings up the same issues and expresses concern. These things aren’t real or serious when a woman experiences it but once a man finds himself in these similar situations they become important. I can’t even count how many times I have said “I just said that,” because it was ignored when I brought it up but taken seriously when the words came out of a man’s mouth.
This is a problem. Not everyone feels the same way or has the same experiences. There are many people that are more and less fortunate than others. This does not mean we have the right to dismiss others problems and concerns just because we have not experienced them. That is the problem with this situation. Most men don’t experience the belittling, the misogyny, the disrespect that women do, so they don’t think women experience these things. We live in the same world so our experiences should be similar, right? No. This idea is absurd. Every person is different and has different experiences including men and women.
I have seen many stories about a man having an epiphany or shock because of how he was treated when putting himself in the shoes of a woman. I read a story of a man who accidentally had his email switched with his female coworker and kept it for a day to see what it was like to be in her shoes. Turns out he had a more difficult time getting things done, people didn’t trust or respect him, and people were incredibly rude to him when his email had a woman’s name attached to it. It was only then when him and his male supervisors realized that she wasn’t a bad worker but was slower because people were more difficult to her because of her gender.
It is great and all to raise awareness of inequality with stories like these but they just reinforce the fact that women are not taken seriously. In the previous situation, her male coworkers wouldn’t have believed that she couldn’t do her job as well because of her gender if the man hadn’t proved it. Because that was not their reality, they couldn’t or maybe didn’t want to try to understand that she would be treated differently. It is easier to put the blame on these women who experience this instead of try to understand and fix these experiences that are a common reality for most.
The reality is that most women would not be surprised by this “revelation” this man had at work because they deal with behavior like this constantly. This coworker was shocked and surprised that she would have to experience this and deal with difficulty not because of her job performance and skills but her gender. This shows that misunderstanding is part of this problem. We need to teach those around us that there is more than one way to experience things and that the concerns of an individual matter even if they are different from our own. Women are not making up these hardships for attention, they are bringing them up so things can change. They are frustrated because not many people take these things seriously because they are concerns raised by a woman.
Another post I saw go viral was a boyfriend try on some clothes his girlfriend was throwing out and how he was appalled at the difference in sizing. With a quick search, you could find an abundance of stories about vanity sizing and the problems with women’s fashion but they haven’t gone viral. It’s wonderful that these men and others are able to recognize these issues and bring awareness to them. However, highlighting only when a man experiences these things himself instead the original issues that women expressed is just adding to the problem. We need to help others to understand the problems with demonstrations like the ones these posted but, we also need to stop ignoring women when they express these issues themselves. We need to stop treating women like their issues aren’t real because only highlighting these issues when a man discovers them is demeaning and disrespectful to the women who actually have to deal with these many issues that disrupt her life. A man can put himself in her shoes for day but then he gets to go back to his life without these problems, something a woman doesn’t have the luxury of doing.