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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. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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