Gender Equality continues to allude us. This fall’s feature film Battle of the Sexes could not be released at a more opportune moment. Forty-four years after the epic tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, women are experiencing a re-run of the same conversations, challenges, and attitudes that our foremothers faced. The New York Times recently published, Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far, illustrating the backlash that women in technology who speak about the discrimination, casual sexism, and sexual harassment face. But it’s not just technology. Enter Harvey Weinstein. The entertainment industry. Law. Medicine. Architecture. Any woman brave enough to enter a male-dominated industry is all too familiar with this discussion.
The real question is, why? Why, despite Billie Jean’s victory, not to mention forty-plus years of fighting for equal pay and gender equity, have we not evolved? In fact, in many cases, we seem to be regressing.
The current discussion is held at the office rather than on the tennis court, but the conversation remains the same: women are inferior because of “biology,” and women, like any minority that proves him or herself too uppity, must be relegated back to her rightful place. Otherwise, “they” will take over. “They” will subjugate those of us rightfully in power.
Only that’s not how “we” think. We’re not looking for revenge because we’ve been sexually harassed. We merely want to be safe. We’re not looking to get even because of the casual sexism and micro-aggressions we face every day in a thousand different ways: from being told to smile on the subway, to the conversation that stops when we enter the room. Rather we want to be treated like a subject, not an object. We’re not plotting a violent rebellion for the wage gap we experience, and have, for decades. Despite the fact that we do the same work, actually better, because we have to be better, way better, in order to be seen as merely competent. We just want what is fair.
We’re not out to get even. Or get you. We’re not orchestrating a witch hunt (ironic use of words, by the way). We’re not planning to take over. That’s what you do.
And we already know what that feels like.
Women understand what it means to be excluded, to have our ideas shut down, and to be silenced. We’ve experienced threatening behavior. Not merely the threatening of our livelihood and economic security, but the threatening of our physical safety. In fact, it happens every day. By refusing a date. A drink. An advance. We’re reprimanded for not apologizing when you bump into us. We’re told that when we speak directly, it’s intimidating. And if we ask for what we want, we’re accused of issuing mandates, and asked who the hell we think we are.
And after a lifetime, we’re tired. The majority of us are too exhausted to lean in, let alone seek to destroy you.
The thought process that any repressed minority is out to defeat, subjected and eliminate her oppressor is flawed. Abundance is infinite. Like air, not a pie. Allowing women to be included will add to the success of us all. Including me does not equate to excluding you. It creates more opportunities for us all to be successful.
Yet, you’ve consistently refused to believe us. And as a result, gender equality remains at bay. We’re not looking to repress, marginalize, or destroy, as has been done to us. Our thinking is very different. And to put it in the nicest, simplest terms, we don’t think like you.