I was directed to a very tiny section of women’s interest books. Although small, I was excited to pour over book titles like No Excuses, Women Who Run with the Wolves, Women of Consequence and others. Just reading the titles made me feel powerful and without limitations.
In fact, according to one, I really could be Queen.
I quickly filled my arms with various books, feeling strong—only frightened by the thought of the final tally. My arms had met (and slightly exceeded) their weight capacity, so I headed towards the checkout counter.
From the escalator, I saw the magazine section in my peripheral and decided I could carry my load a few extra feet and swing by to see what guilty pleasures lay in store for me. I found the ‘Women’s Interest’ placard and started scanning the covers. As I looked across the titles, I saw magazines about beauty, fashion, cooking, interior design, fitness, home and family, weight loss and crafts – with titles like:
“Keep your lover satisfied in bed”
“Lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks”
“Decorate Like a Diva” and other equally shallow “Women’s” topics that screamed out from their Photoshopped covers. I was overcome by a feeling of irony. Here in my arms, I carried the secrets of success and happiness for a progressive woman while standing in front of titles that, aside from the sex, could have been written in the 1950’s.
It was as if someone had slapped me in the face. In that moment it occurred to me that the biggest problem we face as women has less to do with equal rights and better laws, and more to do with how society sees us, how women see each other and what we expect of ourselves.
I know there are those of you out there that are satisfied with how things are. You feel like we have evolved enough and are wondering what all the fuss is about and why women like me and others are out there sounding the alarm, making a big deal out of nothing. What you may not fully realize however is that while we have come a very long way as women, the reality is we still do not make equal pay for equal work in any state of the union. And, despite higher rates in education than men, we only hold 18% of the leadership positions in business and government. As if that weren’t enough of a reason to be alarmed, women also report having less satisfaction with life than men. How is this good enough?
There is corruption at every level of government. As women, we make up only 17% of the members of the House of Representatives and women of color are completely absent from the Senate . That means we, as women, are being held to laws which we have little or no voice in at all. That was enough of a reason for our forefathers to rise up in revolution – yet here we sit in mediocrity, without stirring at all.
Ladies, we can do better. We have to do better!
It’s not any better in the workplace either. Despite the fact that women these days are getting more degrees than their male counterparts, we still do not make equal pay for equal work, in fact, we are making less than men are in every state in US. In business, we make up only 3 percent of the CEOs and hold only 6 percent of the top paying positions. When you look at all the major industries like academics, politics, film and TV, etc., we only hold an average of 18 percent of all the leadership positions available, if you’re a woman of color, it’s even less. These huge disparities aren’t because there are so many more men in the workplace than women. As of 2009, the labor force participation rate for women was 61 percent, and men’s labor force participation sat at about 75 percent- hardly an explanation for such an alarming gender pay gap across the country.
So, what’s the problem? Why, in this day and age is this still going on? Well, while sexism definitely plays a role, it’s a lot more than that, and I hate to say it, but we women are often to blame. While that’s a pretty harsh reality, it also means it is within our power to change things.
The path to equality and opportunity has been paved for us by women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and thousands of others who have staked their time, their reputations and sometimes their lives for your benefit. Thanks to their efforts, a lot of ground has been made. However, we are not there yet. The challenge for us now is to accept our responsibility as intelligent, powerful beings and get on the path to a better, more egalitarian world for us all. Not only will it benefit us as women, but it will benefit all mankind. The human race simply can’t evolve until we are all on equal ground, with every capable being using the talents within them to further the progression of society. As women, with your extraordinary inborn traits, you are the missing piece in a world that really needs you. You are the balance, the beauty and the wisdom that can bring society to a higher plane of existence. Don’t become victims of your own complacency – go out into the world and make it better!