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Try, don’t cry

| Thursday, February 25, 2016

I have a problem with feminism. It’s not necessarily with the word, or even the movement itself, but rather the stigma attached to it. I don’t like the idea that, for some reason, women need more help than men to achieve equality, or whatever word you want to use.

The idea for this column has been floating around in my head for a while, and a few minutes prior to writing it, I casually threw out the idea to a group of white males. Contrary to what you’d expect, I was vehemently shot down by four of the guys there. They criticized my argument for all the right reasons. They poked holes in my logic, called me out for my ignorance and frustrated me to the point where I basically told them to help me think of something better to write for tonight’s column.

“I thought you didn’t need help, you were doing this on your own. You’re letting the men win,” one of them said, partially jokingly. I rolled my eyes, but it made me realize everything wrong with how I approach feminism. Fundamentally, I don’t disagree. I look at my own life and have realized, in retrospect, that there have been a few instances in which things could have gone better for me if I were a male. I realized that, particularly in areas of leadership and negotiation, I have been treated differently because I am a woman. I realized that even one of those guys had, at one point, probably unintentionally treated me differently because I was a girl.

But I hadn’t realized any of this at the time, because I was too concerned with boosting myself up, not making excuses and not allowing my gender to characterize me. Fundamentally, that’s what I don’t like about feminism. I don’t like being told I’m at a disadvantage simply because of my chromosome pair. I would like to think I am capable, regardless of that.

When I was pretty young, my dad had a saying something to the effect of “O’Gradys try, don’t cry.” For better or for worse, this has guided the bulk of my life. When faced with adversity, I generally try and face it with this approach, and it’s worked out decently well for me. I view feminism in the same way. As much as someone — or studies upon studies — can say that I will forever be at a significant disadvantage because I’m a woman, it doesn’t really matter. It’s another challenge, one that I get to face with about 50 percent of the population. We all, unfortunately, have our challenges to overcome. Do I think there is an undue burden on women to ‘prove’ somehow that they are worthy of a position typically held by a man? Sure. Do I think that pressure hasn’t shaped women into being even better and more terrific leaders than the men that came before them? Absolutely. Challenges are there to help us to become better people, and the challenge I face as a female is just another one of them.

When you’re done reading this, turn back to the news section (please). All the articles on the front page (and subsequent four pages) were written by women. That isn’t unusual; the News department has been called a matriarchy, almost nightly. Look around campus, to the leaders of our clubs and societies. There is a prominent female presence nearly everywhere. This doesn’t mean that women don’t need to be better represented across the board, but it’s a step. It’s the first step in a series that we need to keep taking in this general effort. I’m glad, because this conversation changed the way I think about feminism. However, fundamentally, I think we collectively, as women, need to try, not cry.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

Contact Rachel
  • disqus_wHRcN9VDaG

    But see, Rachel, the problem with systemic, structural injustice is that not everyone can just shrug off its ill effects. Women working lower income jobs can’t just shrug off the fact that they’re making less than their male counterparts or significantly less likely to be promoted to management. Older women returning to their careers after raising a family can’t just shrug off the lost time, lost wages, lost promotes, lost bonuses, and lost prestige that they missed because of inadequate maternity leave. Women artists like actors, directors, and writers can’t just shrug off the fact that they are severely underrepresented in their fields and that their work is statistically proven to be less likely to be performed/chosen solely because of their gender.

    As a young white woman from a financially stable background, you may not see all the inequality at work against women in this country – not even talking about the rest of the world – but that certainly does not mean it doesn’t exist, and that women are at a socially programmed disadvantage from the day they’re born (ESPECIALLY women of color) that only increases with age.

    • MC

      Even if there were paid maternity leave, the gap in experience resulting from leave will and should lessen a woman’s likelihood of getting a raise or promotion. Also “lost prestige”? Women choose their family-career balance–if they chose family over staying in labor intensive positions or putting in 75 hours a week, that’s there prerogative.

      Also, how do you statistically prove that women’s artwork is less likely to be chosen based solely on the fact that the artist is a woman? There’s no way to do that statistically.

      There’s an argument to be made that we still need feminism, but this is not it.

  • Johnny Whichard

    Judge others on the content of their character….not on their genitalia.

  • John Robin

    Rachel, I agree with many of your points. Well said.

    Don’t let others discourage you by their insistence that “structural injustices” make you forever a victim incapable of achieving competence, greatness, and sainthood.

    Heroes thrive where injustice lives. It is heroes and saints -not quotas and affirmative action- that challenge and overcome injustice. It is they -not paternalistic but hamfisted social policies- that inspire and lead the way.

  • Don’t know what to say.