Tomorrow is International Women's Day, and I'm here to drop my favorite F word, feminism. Have you run screaming for the hills yet? Too many people furrow their brows and get out of sorts when this particular f-bomb is dropped. Full disclosure, I was raised in a culture where "feminist" was synonymous with "radical, bra burning, man hating, liberal bitches". And it's a sad, tired, grossly misinformed idea that we're going to hit head on right now. First, feminism is about equality in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Too many people get their underpants in a twist and start railing when they hear the term equality because their assumption is that to give rights to one person means to take them away from another. And this simply isn't the case. Equality means that we share the same rights and privileges regardless of our gender, race, or sexual orientation.
I have had people tell me point blank, "But Deedre this is 2021, women are equal, this isn't a real problem anymore." So, I did some digging to see if maybe I was misinformed, maybe I had somehow misconstrued the whole issue, but in my search, I found a Gloria Steinem quote that pretty much hits the nail on the head, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!"
My search started with the basics: what percentage of the United States population is female? The answer is roughly 51%. So, basically half of us here in the US are women. Ok. Next search, how many CEO's of fortune 500 companies are women? For those of you who might need clarification the Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States corporations by total revenue for their respective fiscal years. The list includes publicly held companies, along with privately held companies for which revenues are publicly available. So out of 500 CEO's, I discovered that 38 are women. Thirty eight are women (and according to a CNN article that's a record number!) That is less than 8%.
What about the government? This is a bold year for women with our first ever female Vice President. There are 100 senators, 24 of them are women (and only 11 are people of color). There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, 119 of them are women. So, to be clear, women make up 51% of the United States population and only 24% of Senators and 27% of Representatives (and these numbers are historically high).
And let's not leave out Hollywood, because, let's be honest, we've all consumed a lot of Netflix during this pandemic. The yearly Celluloid Ceiling report by San Diego State University found that women accounted for 16% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films in 2020, up from 12% in 2019 and only 4% in 2018. Martha M. Lauzen who conducted the study said, "We have now seen two consecutive years of substantial gains for female protagonists, indicating the beginning of a positive shift in representation. That said, it's important to note that moviegoers are still almost twice as likely to see a male character as a female character in a speaking role."
We are no doubt making immense positive strides in the right direction, but search after search produced the same results. In positions of power, decision making, money, politics, education - women are grossly underrepresented. And women of color are at an even more significant disadvantage. So I'll say it again, louder for the people at the back, equality means that we share the same rights and privileges regardless of our gender, race, or sexual orientation.
So how do we make more seats at the table? How do we make our voices heard? Be educated. Buy from women owned companies. Pay attention to politics, know who is running for office, and go vote. Watch films written and directed by women. Give your binge watching hours to movies and television with strong female leads. Read books written by women. Diversify your life. Follow social media accounts for women and women of color. And be sure to check out the official website for International Women's Day and support their 2021 campaign #ChooseToChallenge and "Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality."
Creating my own sunshine 🌞