of equality and eradication: thoughts on National Women’s Equality Day

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The girl who is sick of gender inequality (above). Photo by Kristin Coffman.

Last night I spent an hour curled up in the driver’s seat of my car in the shade of my local Rite Aid, bawling.

I had intended to make a quick trip of it– walk in, pick up my birth control, and get on with the rest of my errands. A young man at the pharmacy counter greeted me pleasantly and asked for my information. He hesitated before sheepishly explaining that my insurance wasn’t going to cover my medication.

“It won’t be covered until September 1st,” he explained nervously.

This was a problem for me. I needed it now if I wanted to skip my period and forgo the excruciating pain, nausea, and headaches that have plagued me for years.

“You can pay out of pocket, but it’s going to be $39 for one month,” he continued.

Here’s the thing: I already paid for this medication when my insurance payment was deducted from my paycheck. It is legally mine. Yet here I was, listening to some male stranger tell me that another complete stranger had decided that I was due for my period, that I didn’t get to skip the placebo pills this month. Some unknown person was sitting at a desk somewhere out there, saying that I shouldn’t be allowed to have more than one month’s supply at a time. Heaven forbid that I, a woman, would want to go more than one month without getting pregnant. The notion that a 25-year-old woman wants to have a career and her own life is so absurd to my insurance company that they can’t justify the cost to provide me with more than one month at a time.

In college, our university pharmacy let us take home an entire years’ worth at a time. Plan B was as accessible as ibuprofen, and paid for with our tuition. It made sense– we were in college to learn and to become functioning members of society and tax-paying citizens. Childbearing and homemaking were not on the university’s agenda. Everyone, male and female, was on the same spectrum for the first time, if only for a moment. We had everything we needed.

Exit college, and we are once again introduced to the “play like a boy” mindset. Women are asked to dress like men if they want to be taken seriously. We are paid less for the same work. We are hired less because we may someday require maternity leave. We are encouraged to flirt our way into success. We are largely pressured by the male population to deny these things, because agreeing with our oppressors yields more rewards than ruffling feathers.

What consistently baffles me is the amount of pushback I get on these topics from people whom I believe to be quite intelligent otherwise. These outspoken woman-haters don’t seem to realize that they are arguing against equal rights for their female loved ones.

The very fact that National Women’s Equality Day exists necessitates change.

It is very seldom when I experience a single day without having to modify my life in a way men will never have to.

Men will never know how uncomfortable and frightened I felt last month when I was gassing up my car, the attendant leaning inside my car, violating my space. These days, I crack the window only enough to slide my card through it.

Men will never have to feel like they cannot go on a hike alone, or even on a walk around their block alone at night, without putting theirselves in harm’s way. Should I do something like that and danger befalls me, they would say that “I asked for it,” or that “I should have known better than to do it.” If a man is harmed, the blame is on the perpetrator. If a woman is harmed, she lacked common sense.

Men will never have to know what it is like to lose ownership of their own body simply by existing. My body has been used for another man’s pleasure without my consent more times than I can count–both physically and mentally. Women–if you’ve ever been catcalled, groped, or even stared at, this applies to you too. It is my belief that every woman has, at least once in her life, been utilized without consent in a sexual nature.

Cisgender men will never feel victimized by the government or by people who hold power, simply because they host certain body parts. They will never feel the burning humiliation of being objectified by an authority figure or law enforcer.

Men will never need to create a national holiday recognizing their systematic oppression.

I want to say “happy National Women’s Equality Day” but the fact is that, because it exists, it is not a happy day at all.

I encourage women and men who support the happiness and well-being of women to do one thing today. It’s easy. If you want to participate in this day, all I ask is that you recognize the lack of equality we live with. It sounds easy, but most men that I know will instinctually contradict me.

If you want a woman to hate, go ahead. Hate the living shit out of me. I can hold my own.

But take this time to think about your mother, daughter, sister, cousin, niece, or female friend who is being hurt by the perpetual aggression towards women. Think about how they’re living in my world too. Someday, a man may grab her or cat-call her or turn her down for a job or rape her or tell her she doesn’t matter. I guarantee you, it has already happened. Acknowledgment is the first step.

 

 

 

 

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