You and GenderAvenger: Mary Poppins, Gender Inequality, and 15-Year-Old Sonia Pearson's Passion for Feminism
This is part of our You and GenderAvenger series. We want to hear why you are part of the GenderAvenger community. Is it philosophical, personal, or a part of your activism? Whatever it may be, write a short (or long) blog entry, and we will post it so fellow community members can understand what brings us together and inspires us. Click here to share your story.
I first heard about GenderAvenger through my mother, who is passionate about under-representation of women in leadership roles. I think the organization sparked my interest initially because its interface (like the Halls of Fame and Shame) struck me in a way that many other statistics and articles haven't about the gap between males and females here, in this first world society we live in.
See, it took me a long time to understand what "feminism" was. It wasn't until I was about eight that I realized that men, at any point in time, had had more power in the workforce than women. I was watching Mary Poppins, and I remember asking my mother to explain what a "suffragette" was and then trying to rationalize that new piece of information, that women were not always equal to men, into my idealistic world view. Okay, maybe a long time ago women didn’t have equal rights... I mean, if dinosaurs weren’t extinct yet and people still wore silly hats, nonsensical things must have been the norm back then. It couldn’t have anything to do with the world now, in which my mother worked more hours than my dad and powerful women sat in my living room discussing various ways to fix foreign affairs.
So, when I heard that there were people who made it a point of standing up for women's rights, it sounded a bit antiquated, extremely unnecessary, and almost insulting. On what planet did I need someone else to fight my battles, to fight for my right to work wherever I please? Why did people assume I needed a leg up when I was just as competent as any boy in my fourth grade class? This is the sheltered planet I've had the pleasure of growing up on. It seems not many have shared my experience.
Looking back, my judgment of feminists was selfish. Feminism was not created for the 1% of young women like me, growing up with more advantages than most men. This idea needs to be spread, because powerful girls like Malala believe that her father treating her as an equal to her brothers is something special. It needs to be spread because less than 5% of Fortune 500’s CEOs are women (Catalyst). Most of all, we need to see changes because these numbers and gross inequalities are reflections of our society. Research shows that women are not promoted nearly as frequently because they are not as assertive or aggressive as men. However, while these qualities show confidence in men, in women they are often seen as crass. And why are they seen that way? Because society has chosen a different model for the "ideal" woman: one who is sweet and mild and even self-sacrificing. How is that fair? By this model, women should wait around to get offered a raise or a promotion, despite it being more than acceptable for their male counterparts to demand one, regardless of their qualifications.
So what should we do? I believe that to solve the problem of gender inequality we need to focus more attention on young girls’ (and boys’) development. If we can eliminate gender biases at a childhood level, then we’ve won the battle before having to fight it. What GenderAvenger is doing now is important because girls need female role models who are visible showing them that they can work and excel in any field they want. However, from a young age we need to teach girls that women need to be no more inclined towards docility than men. We need to explain to parents that bossiness should be equally praised and reprimanded in girls and boys. If we want to see permanent and sustainable change we have to alter gender stereotypes at a prepubescent level, so that my sheltered planet can become a reality.
Avenger Sonia Farrell Pearson, junior at Washington International School.