Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The fight against gender equality: Obstacles or power struggle?

Actress Patricia Arquette was interviewed on CBS this morning and her famous plea for equal pay during the Oscar's was mentioned. She explained how afraid she was when she made the public call for gender equality and went on to talk about her own challenges as a single young mother. When asked about the reaction to her Oscar's speech, Arquette responded that she knew "there would be haters".

Her comment implies, and was also confirmed by news reports, that there were vocal critics after the Oscar's. I vaguely remember a mention about a Fox News reporter who was offended by Arquette's speech for equal pay but brushed it off as a desperate attempt on the reporter's part for viewer attention. When you sit down and think about it, it's ridiculous for any woman to claim she is offended by a public figure to demand gender equality. But this confession, as ridiculous as it may seem, links to what has been for sometime the strife among women, namely those who proudly call themselves feminists, over who and what should represent the struggles of women. While feminism has had its fair share of struggles as one generation after the next tries to enhance or build on the prior generation's campaigns for increased equality, there is still this debate about how the fight for gender equality should move forward. Ask anyone who has tried to voice a unified call for women's rights and she'll tell you that somewhere down the line she had been attacked for taking any type of stand.

Hillary Clinton was in Beijing today for the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women. While the expected conversation about women's rights and gender equality should have been the topic, Hillary was expected to justify the use of personal emails in her role as Secretary of State. I'm with those who believe that an explanation is in order, but why during an international conference that focuses on women. Major newspapers and mainstream reporters were criticizing Hillary for choosing this forum to discuss the scandal, and that may be so, but she has been vocal about women's rights for most of her political life. Could her challenges in gaining a White House seat be enshrouded by her outspoken views for gender equality? This could be the issue on both sides of the gender debate, since Hillary has been having a tough time trying to woo enough votes from either side to land a nomination. Overall, the Clintons have had difficulty holding a political moral ground for sometime now. It appears that every time they have a chance at succeeding politically, they are caught in one scandal after another. Maybe they're just bad at lying, or maybe championing on behalf of women has caught the ire of Americans.

We saw this particular pattern when Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg released her book "Lean In". Right before the book went public, Sheryl was respected as an executive and a woman. It was rare that she was ever reflected in a bad light. After her book, there were storms of criticism about her intention and strategy in helping other women make it in corporate America. Most of the criticism stemmed from other women who questioned Sheryl's motives.  Now with the release of her Lean In Together campaign, where she asks men to align themselves with their female peers and help forge some real change in the fight for gender equality, Sheryl has once again become a target of negative feedback. It's those intentions again of what precisely she is getting at when trying to invite men into the gender equality campaign.

There is either a very serious power struggle unfolding among those fighting for gender equality or an attempt to stifle anyone who tries to propel the women's movement forward. When the fighting happens by women against other women, the first option seems like the ideal reasoning.

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