4 Gender Equality Norms We Should Still Be Thanking Early Feminists For
My mom has told me a million times about her first waitressing job at a beloved east coast casual dining chain. Her “interview” involved standing sideways next to a wall so the male manager could see if her chest literally measured up.
This wasn't a job at Hooters. She wasn't serving cocktails at the Playboy mansion. This was a family restaurant best known for ice cream sundaes with smiley faces on them.
When I was younger, I always thought the story was kind of funny: Our family's long line of giant cans was finally coming in at the clutch for once. As I've gotten older and formed my own feminist identity, however, the story has lost much of its charm.
Today, interviews involving some dude ogling at their chests don't exist for young women. For the most part, jobs are given out regardless of gender. They are based on skills, experience, education and intelligence. These are traits that can never be summed up by our boobs, no matter how grand or perky they might be.
This is a given that most of us never even think about. But it's important to remember there was a time when picking out the right bra was crucial to our livelihood. Here are some other choice inequalities we take for granted today:
1. Political Power
I'm not talking Hillary-for-president-level power here. I mean literally the right to play any part in politics, including the act of voting. If first-wave feminists hadn't gotten down and dirty and fought -- literally fought, hard -- for our right to participate in the American political system, we wouldn't have had any ability to control our futures or status within our own country.
Sandra Day O'Connor never would have been able to serve on the Supreme Court. Janet Reno wouldn't have become Attorney General. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act wouldn't exist.
Senator Wendy Davis never would have filibustered to block anti-abortion legislation in Texas. Millennial women wouldn't be able assess whether it's their feminist duty to vote for Hillary, but then vote for Bernie anyway. (Sorry, but I'm not sorry.)
Mellie Grant never would have been able to prevent Planned Parenthood from being defunded. Oh, wait: I'm mixing up "Scandal" and real life again.
2. The Right To Own Property
Yeah. I bet you forgot about that whole scenario in which women literally couldn't even own their own property. Thanks to these fun things called “head and master” laws, historically, women had no control over their husbands' money or property. Your husband couldn't literally let you starve, but any earnings or property of yours were, in turn, controlled by your husband.
So, the next time you're wondering how many years you're going to have to live off ramen in order to afford that sick apartment in the East Village, take a beat to appreciate the fact that even if you contract scurvy -- seriously, eat some veggies -- owning your own place is a real possibility.
3. Title IX
“But I don't even play sports, so I don't care.” Stop that. Seriously: Stop it.
Title IX isn't actually about sports. So let's reflect on the fact that there once was a time when the right to an equal education didn't exist. You know how in old movies about high school, all the dudes took shop, while the ladies tried their hands at sewing in home economics?
That was real. I know, I know: Take a minute to let that sink in.
You good? Cool.
Title IX means you can't be barred from a programming class or kept out of a science lecture because you're lacking a certain appendage. It's just about the coolest title there is.
So yeah, there's a female tennis team. There are also women in your calculus class. I bet you hadn't even thought about that.
4. The Right To A Career
OK, so women have been allowed to have careers for a really long time, actually. As it turns out, our vaginas make us inherently qualified teachers, secretaries and nurses. In American history, women have almost always been allowed to have those roles.
In fact, if you were one of the 38 percent of women who actually had a job in 1960, that job was probably on the list. You may have noticed that all of those professions share the common purpose of taking care of men or kids.
You may also have noticed that the list is a little limited. Unfortunately, women who had other careers hardly existed. Around that same time in 1960, women accounted for 6 percent of doctors, 3 percent of lawyers and less than 1 percent of engineers.
It wasn't until Representative Howard Smith of Virginia added a clause that protected against gender discrimination onto the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that women began getting accepted into other professions. The best part is, Congress thought it was a really dumb idea at the time. In fact, the amendment almost didn't make it into the act.
Shout out to all the ladies not currently pursuing careers as caretakers for men and their spawn.
Despite all these amazing things that have improved the lives of women in so many ways, there's still a lot of feminist-ing to be done out there. We need to keep moving our gender forward so that one day, our daughters might tuck into an Elite Daily article and read with disgusted wonderment about a time when women made $0.78 to a man's $1, rape culture prevailed and reproductive rights weren't a given. We want them to consider how lucky they are to live in a world where they can take those things for granted.