March 19, 2018

LEE | The Ideal Woman

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The #MeToo movement and Women’s History Month have prompted me to reflect a lot upon what it means to be a woman. Hearing stories about how many people of my gender had been discriminated against, harassed, assaulted for being born with two X chromosomes sparked anger from deep within my heart. I wasn’t necessarily shocked. I mean, a lot of these accounts are what women actually face on a daily basis.

I can still recall the exact moment in ninth grade when a man pushed his front up against my butt in a subway car, as well as how shaken I was as I told him to move over. I remember when my peers labeled me as bossy for being assertive in elementary school, while boys who acted in a similar manner never were. I also look back on that feeling of striking fear, upset and astonishment of being catcalled while walking home at 10 p.m. Me too, because I would not have undergone any of these experiences had I been a man.

By definition, I think that I am a feminist, as I avidly support women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. Yet by the mainstream and social media’s portrayal of feminists, I don’t think I necessarily fit into that category. While I strongly believe that all women and men should be treated equally and provided with the same opportunities, I also don’t think a label is necessary to be an advocate for gender equality.

I greatly appreciate the work of many feminists throughout history who have fought for women’s suffrage and against injustices in the workplace, home and anywhere in our society. However, I also think that modern feminism has a long way to go. For one thing, I don’t believe it is right for many feminists to shun those who disagree with their beliefs.

I came upon an article from The Odyssey titled, “I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay”. The author describes her beliefs that it is O.K. for a man to be the head of the household and for a woman to stay at home and be considered the more nurturing one of the two sexes. Although I personally disagree and would not like to stay home nor be a subordinate of my husband, I can see where she is coming from and respect her opinion. While I would like to see more done in terms of opportunities and fairness for women in society, I don’t think personal choices that are different from mine should be shunned just because they go against my beliefs.

I am deeply concerned by the double standard that has often been imposed upon women who choose to be nurturing and domestic. Nowadays, women are told to fit into this paradigm of being strong and independent. But women shouldn’t be told to act or follow in a certain path. They can be whatever they want to be — CEO or housewife — as long as it is their choice. And nothing should hinder them from pursuing what they believe is right for them.

I hope the #MeToo movement will continue to stay true to its roots, unlike many others that have tumbled down to the point of denouncing other women who don’t follow their ideal of the modern woman. In this time of ever-increasing need for gender equality, let us not forget that imposing the same standards upon every woman is exactly what we are trying to fight against.

DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a sophomore in the ILR school. She can be reached at margaretlee@cornellsun.com. Here, There and Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays.