I consider myself to be both strong and independent. I’ve worked hard to get where I am in my career. I’m financially stable, and I take good care of my mental and physical health. Also, I’m pretty good at just getting shit done—all qualities associated with feminism. However, recently there was a moment in the gym that genuinely made me question whether I would align myself with the term “feminist.”
I just finished doing squats and was unloading the bar like every good gym rat should. As I was doing so, a man came over and began helping me take the plates back to the rack. So rarely do people put their own weights back in the gym. I was pleasantly surprised this guy made the effort to help put my weights back.
As this thoughtful person was helping me, a woman appeared from nowhere and interrupted his kind gesture. She then proceeded to scold him for his actions, claiming that he was “being patronizing and sexist” and that I “obviously didn’t need his help!”
Now, to be fair, I wasn’t struggling to lift the weights. I just finished 2x bodyweight squats, so I certainly wasn’t having problems moving a few 45-pound plates across the room! However, it was evident to me that this man’s actions weren’t a way to belittle me or to assert any male dominance. He was simply being kind and clearing the rack quickly so he could use it for barbell rows.
It was at this moment when this helpful stranger was forced to apologize, despite doing nothing wrong, that I realized if this is what feminism has become, I don’t want to be associated with it.
While we’re at it, there are a few other things that really grind my gears about this recent surge in so-called “female empowerment.”
Strong Is the New Sexist
While I’m all for equality, there are some aspects of gender that make us unequal, whether we like it or not. Take strength, for example. Naturally occurring biological and physiological differences mean even if a woman trains hard and eats all the protein in the world, men will always remain physically stronger. Do you know why? Because they’re full of testosterone.
Now, let’s put this strength into context. A large number of feminists complain that many sports have male-only teams and outright refuse to take female players. Is this sexist? No, it’s fucking smart! Imagine a 120-pound woman joining the NFL. Undoubtedly this woman is strong, athletic and talented. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been picked for the team. However, imagine that woman going up against a 340-pound male linebacker. That would be terrifying and not end very well. This isn’t sexism. It’s science.
There is one aspect of the feminist agenda I 100% believe in, and that is equality in the workplace. I should be able to do any job that a man can do, and I should be paid the same to do it. And do you know what? This has been the case in every job I’ve had. Of course, I’m just one person, and I may have been very lucky not to have experienced sexism in my 12 years of full-time employment. However, there are stats to back up this notion too.
While it is true that for every $1 a man earns, a woman earns $0.72, a survey from PayScale shows that the wage gap almost entirely disappears when you control for occupation and experience. The truth is that women aren’t starting off behind their male counterparts, so much as they’re choosing different jobs which have lower salary growth in the long term.
Think about it this way, removing gender from the equation entirely: Engineer A and Engineer B are paid the same salary as they do the same job. Engineer A and Secretary A are paid different salaries, because one does a job that requires specific skills and training, and the other does an easier, less skill-intensive job. Gender isn’t even a factor here.
Object Of My Affection
Another argument often thrown into the feminist debate is all about objectification: How men view women as “things” to be owned. While I’m not going to deny that this happens, is it as prevalent as it seems?
Consider how women were treated just 50 years ago. Women were expected to be homemakers and mothers; to dote on their husband and have dinner on the table when he returned from work; to wear dresses and always be perfectly made-up at all times, like some creepy living doll. These women were certainly seen as objects.
Nowadays, it is rare that women are seen as or treated like that. More often than not, we’re seen as valuable contributors in the workplace, informed participants of schooling, and absolute badasses in the gym. And to be honest, bitching about the few occasions when some douchebag does objectify you with a cat-call does nothing. However, taking action to prove your strength and power is what really makes the difference.
The Great Gender Divide?
Although this whole article may seem like I’m jumping to the defense of the male species, that isn’t the case. This article is meant to highlight that it’s not about being a man or a woman—it’s about being human, recognizing our differences, and working with them, rather than against them.
I see myself as a strong and empowered person. Not a strong and empowered woman, as that automatically puts a caveat on my strength and independence based on which genitalia I possess. And that is exactly my point—we can only truly create equality once we recognize there is no “dominant” gender. There are just males and females. Human beings. People that complement and contrast each other. It really is that simple.