Once your eyes have been opened to injustice it is impossible to pretend it does not exist. Perhaps this is why ignorance is bliss. Awareness is a responsibility; it requires action. To be aware and to do nothing is denying the part of our hearts that yearns to see justice be done.
I very clearly remember the day that I first became aware of how inherently wrong it was that men and women were unequal. Why did one sex get to rule over the other? Why was I being denied certain rights and freedoms that the men in my life had without question?
Someone recently asked me, “in what way have you been treated differently than the men in your life?” One thing that stood out to me is this: I studied English Literature in University for five years. Instead of people asking me about what I was learning, they would ask me about the boys at school. Was I dating someone? Were there cute guys there? Any plans to get married? It were as if my only reason for seeking higher education was to find a spouse.
As it turns out the joke is on them: I got an education AND a husband.
This is the problem with inequality. It is incredibly subtle and it is implicit. We do not question what we have known since the moment we emerge from the womb and are wrapped up in a pink or blue blanket. I have an African-Canadian friend who told me that for as long as she can remember, she has always understood that she would have to work twice as hard as anyone else if she wanted to make something for herself in this world. No one ever had to tell her this; it was already implied.
It is really hard to make everyone understand this. When the world works in your favour, why would you question it? Even as a woman, I never considered that there are underlying social structures that limit POC. As a caucasian, everything seemed fine from where I stood. Why would I question something that was benefiting me?
This is the biggest hurdle I have faced since launching this blog in November. People are very quick to argue that everything is fine: racism is basically illegal in Canada, there are lots of female CEOs now, anyone who works hard can have a piece of the Canadian dream, etc.. And still: God created man first, you can vote now so shut up, stop being so dramatic.
I don’t mind the feedback. If you are going to share an opinion, you have to be prepared to get opinions back. I have told tons of people who make these comments to message me so we can foster a conversation rooted in respect, listening and love, but I have only had two people brave enough to do that. I could fight about feminism until kingdom come, but what it really boils down to is this:
What threatens people so much about equality?
When you phrase it this way, it becomes hard to argue. This is really the heart of anti-feminism protests. It is people who do not understand feminism to begin with (feminism = equality; nothing more, nothing less) or who are scared that embracing equality means they lose rights.
When you give other people the rights they inherently deserve--the rights you have been implicitly given--you don’t lose anything. Giving someone equal rights does not mean you have to give up your own rights. It is not about forcing the scale to hit the other side, it is about balancing it.
This may be threatening because it introduces more competition. If we were to have total equality in the workplace, it would mean that in order to get the job you would really have to earn it. You would not have a leg up as a white male, just as much as you would not have a leg up because the company needed to fulfill some minority quota. You would have to really, truly, earn the job.
I know that I cannot solve all the injustices of the world. I cannot make everyone I meet a feminist. However, I do hope that by speaking out and sharing my experiences maybe, just maybe, a fire will burst to life in someone’s heart. That others will feel empowered to stand up and fight for justice. Because once you’re eyes have been opened, there is no turning back.