A history of inequality drives modern feminism

I’M PICKING UP where I left off in my last column. Yup — feminism is my topic today, as it is near and dear to my heart.

Last time I wrote about how women are still not treated equally to men in this society, and how we often don’t see what is in front of us.

A lot of the women who fought and won the right to vote did not continue to fight for women’s rights. For the most part, they returned to their homes and daily lives. However, some put their energy into the abolishment of slavery.

Feminists have fought, and continue to fight for the rights of oppressed groups of people. The inequalities get ferreted out, little by little. As one layer is pulled away, we see the discrepancies and our understanding grows.

These women (and men) who fought for the vote were forward thinkers. In more recent times, we have come to realize that strict gender roles limit women. Feminists are working to change that.

But many people believe that women have reached the same level as men. However, if equality exists, why are we still fighting for our cause? Do people really think feminists invent these issues?

But I understand that not everyone grasps the state of affairs for women in these United States. I can see that. And I know there are people who think I am outdated, stuck in the past and that my thinking does not measure up to modern day realities.

But isn’t the past important? Of course it is. Aren’t college students required to study history? First, there are the G.E.
requirements. After that, we study history related to our specific major. How can one think critically about current events without at least some understanding of what has come before? If we don’t have that foundation, it limits how we look at the present.

Hopefully, most everyone would agree that what I just said makes sense. But I have a couple of modern day examples to help prove my point. I think it’s fair to use the year 2005 as a pretty current time that we can use as a barometer in this equality vs. inequality debate.

And while I can take on a number of issues, from athletics to employment, to prove my point, I am going to argue about the idea of women, as sexual vehicles for men.

Here’s the first example. There was a time when men could legally rape their wives. They had no legal recourse. Today, I think most people would find that absurd. But what if I told you that in May 2005, several states had not yet passed an anti-marital rape law? This information is easy to find from credible sources.

Anyway, in Tennessee, the only way a wife could file charges was if her husband used a weapon in the rape. I guess holding her down against her will was not considered weapon enough.

I will admit, I don’t know what the status is today. But even if Tennessee has the best darn anti-marital rape laws in the world, the fact is, as little as two years ago, a husband could legally rape his wife. Shouldn’t that at least cause one to give pause?

But for those who are still unbelievers, I will present to you an article from the Journal of Family Violence (June 2005). It is about a study done by Mark A. Whatley. His study was designed to test college students’ responses to one of two scenarios he set up. In each, the husband raped his wife. One of the hypotheses tested was whether the respondents would be influenced by the way the wife was dressed.

Well, guess what? Both men and women found the wife to be at least partially to blame for the rape, based on her attire (conservative versus sexy). Another factor they tested was what the students thought about a wife refusing to have sex with her husband, in order to punish him for something he said or did.

I won’t pretend to be able to interpret all the data. But I can understand the summary.

He wrote, “Attitudes about rape and rape victims are so ingrained in people that several standardized measures of attitudes toward rape victim[s] have been developed.�

Well, when something is ingrained, then isn’t it difficult to see? It isn’t going to jump up and smack anyone on the head. It takes researchers and forward thinking people to bring it to light.

This researcher showed concern because the belief systems of blaming the victim in spousal rape were very similar to the tendency to blame the victim in a stranger rape! By itself that speaks volumes, but there is more and this is where history fits in. He said that his study closely matched the results of a study from about 10 years ago. We are still blaming victims for their own rapes! We ought to be past that, but we are not. History has followed us right into the 21st century.

So I ask, can the sexes be equal when a woman’s body is not seen as totally owned by her? When a married woman is still expected to, “put out,� to satisfy her husband with her body, is that equal treatment? I mean, the animals at Sea World don’t even have to come out and perform if they don’t feel like it.

So all I have to say is, if you get it, you get it and if you don’t, you don’t. If I sound jaded, I’m jaded for good reasons.

At any rate, feminists will continue to try to make this a better society for women, be they mothers or grandmothers, sisters or daughters.

Previous Story

The One-Finger Salute

Next Story

Four-year FS study on life in the Valley released