School’s out, and it’s a good thing, too — because across the world, young women are being kidnapped, raped, and shot to death while pursuing an education.
If that sounds shocking — terrific. I’m glad to know we haven’t yet become desensitized to the violence that female students are enduring. But we haven’t become sufficiently enraged about it, either. And that’s equally shocking. Remember when girls and women could go to school and expect to graduate unharmed? Here’s what’s happening now:
• There are 164 Nigerian girls missing after being abducted from their school in April by Islamic terrorists who oppose Western education and have threatened to sell the girls into sexual slavery.
• In the U.S., one in five women is being sexually assaulted during college, and more than 50 universities are being investigated by the Office for Civil Rights for mishandling sexual-assault cases on campus.
• And here in our progressive, civilized town, six people were murdered when an angry young guy embarked on a rampage to “punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex.” The killer, whose name will never appear in a column of mine, left written rants about waging a “war on women.”
While all of that is happening, this is also taking place: Young women are insisting they’re not feminists. From Katy Perry to Lady Gaga, influential It Girls have been resisting the label, worried that it seems anti-man. The latest: Actress Shailene Woodley, star of The Fault in Our Stars, out this week, recently told Time magazine that she’s not a feminist.
“[B]ecause I love men,” said the 22-year-old, “and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”
I used to feel like her: embarrassed at all the fuss over women’s rights, uncomfortable with the notion that I needed any protection from defensive chicks with chips on their (tee-hee, mannish) shoulders. Their protests made me flush with shame — the way you do when your mom upbraids a waiter for getting your order wrong. Stop! Please! It’s fine! I’m fine! Quit calling so much attention to us!
I never felt slighted for who I was. Not by anyone. For any reason. But the defensive chicks were the reason why.
It was a testament to the work they had already done for women’s rights that I saw no need whatsoever for such work. I took my nearly equal status for granted, the same way kids born after 2000 will fail to see what the big deal is about a black president. Or how the next generation’s children will take their gay parents’ matrimony for granted.
But to say you’re not a feminist today is to be ignorant of the hard-won victories fought on our behalf. So we could vote. Own property. Earn a paycheck. Wear pants, for god’s sake.
In fact, even being ignorant is a slap in the face of the feminists who ensured our right to an education, when girls in colonial America could only attend school if there were seats left after the boys filled the classrooms. And when women weren’t admitted to any college until almost 200 years after Harvard opened its doors. And when women and men didn’t attend U.S. colleges in equal numbers until 1980 — just a few years before Katy Perry and Lady Gaga were born, for those keeping score.
So listen up, sisters. As long as there are men who see us as game pieces in their political, sexual, and psychological battles, as things to be overpowered, won or lost, possessed or destroyed — then, no, you don’t get to treat feminism like an over-the-top accessory that would ruin your otherwise awesome outfit.
I’ll give Shailene Woodley credit, though, for getting one thing right: We do need balance. And we need it fast.