In response to your comment on my post from yesterday: I thank you for your questioning and seeking, and I hope this helps you understand a little better.
To me, to grossly oversimplify, it seems that women are typically seen as "less-than" and compared, often unfavorably, to men. I am a feminist (unapologetically so), and to me, that means that each of us has the right to make our own decisions for our lives. It doesn't mean that I am better than men. I want respect on my own terms, not on terms decided for me by men, church, society, etc. This doesn't mean I am *not* open to the guidance and shepherding of a community - I am talking basic human respect for the quality of my life being JUST AS important as that of a man's, JUST AS valued, JUST AS respected. I love men and value men, but I'm glad I'm not one and I don't want to be one. I see great value and import in being a woman. There are probably other ways some of the following ideas can be argued (I don't pretend to have all the answers about causation and correlation), but I see a pattern.
In the United States, we live in a culture where women are expected to maintain standards (often impossible) of beauty, but men are not. Women still earn less for the same work (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0193820.html). The standard subject for medical studies is the middle-aged, white male; therefore the effects of many medicines in women is not well understood - thus getting a prescription makes me feel I am playing roulette with my health. Twice as many women as men suffer from depression. Women are more likely to die from heart disease because their symptoms are usually ignored or misdiagnosed in the emergency room (being different from those of men). Women are overwhelmingly left to single-parent children. Women who are married with families and who work outside the home still shoulder most of the housework. I could go on.
Worldwide, girls are regularly denied education. In China, infant boys are still more highly valued than girls, increasing the number of girls left in orphanages or aborted before birth (which as we know, endangers the mother's health and well-being, too). In Africa, many girls stop going to school once they begin menstruating, because there are no bathrooms for them and they are not excused from class to see to their bleeding. In Juarez, Mexico, women are being slaughtered every day (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/01/12/2010-01-12_bloody_mexico_murder_record__69_killed_in_one_day.html). In many countries, rape is still used to silence and intimidate women and girls. In Thailand, and many other Southeast Asian countries, women are forced into or sold into prostitution because their families cannot/will not support them. Why? Too many children. But family planning is also not allowed or not discussed. Women in fundamentalist Islam worldwide are expected to cover up their bodies completely (making them invisible, making them not individual). I could go on.
To see the extent of misogyny all around you:
- Try googling "quotes about women" and see what kind of quotes are out there. In your opinion, are they positive? What values do they reflect? Who said them?
- RE: Church doctrine. Notice how man was created just to be, and woman as his "helper." Notice how creation starts with men, which directly conflicts the actual biological practice of women bearing children. Try talking about God (who is represented in the bible as being neither male nor female) in the feminine and see how quickly people call you heretic or laugh at you. Notice how sermons and messages are primarily taught about the men in the Bible. Yet notice that the first people who found out Jesus was resurrected were WOMEN. Notice how the word "man" "he" and "mankind" are scattered throughout hymns, readings, etc. Imagine what it is like to grow up never hearing yourself represented in the world of faith, not to mention in the trinity (for goodness sakes, can't just one of the trinity be female??).
- Consider how men insult other men by calling them "pussy," "girly," or "ladies." Not to mention the phrase "throw like/run like/play sports like a girl."
- Consider how men tend to see women as objects, ie. whistling at them in the streets, shouting catcalls, ogling. This is not positive attention. This is not recognizing me as a person. It is seeing me as boobs, ass, cunt. As a receptacle, a receiver.
- Consider how the traits we see as "feminine" (nurturing, giving up time to be with family, empathy, peace-making, caring for the sick, feeding and changing and raising children, etc.) are considered negative in the men who embrace them.
- Ask the women in your life about episodes of discrimination, negative attention, abuse, etc. that they have experienced. Ask your mother if she could get credit in her own name once she got married. Consider that 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic abuse in their lifetimes. Consider that 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18 (If you are in a group with 5 women and girls, at least one of them has been sexually abused. Think about that next time you are surrounded by women). Consider that 73% of rape victims know their attacker. Consider that only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. Consider living your life in that kind of world.
- Consider how long it took women to fight for and win the right to vote. (From at least 1776 to 1920).
- Consider that women make up over half the population in the USA, but there are only 17 women senators (out of 100) and 76 women representatives (out of 435). With those numbers, would you feel understood and represented in Washington?
I could go on.
I could share my own, deeply personal, stories, but this is not the place.
The hate against me, just for being female. It is constant. It is a barrage. It is a whisper. It infects every conversation I have with a newly-met man (will this man harm me? Can I trust him? Must I prove myself again? Will he be threatened by my intelligence? Do I have to be nice because I don't want him to think I'm a bitch?) and every moment I spend in public (is that man following me? Is this a good place to park? Better not stop at this gas station, don't like the looks of those drivers...don't make eye contact or smile with that one...keep an eye on those teenagers...better be home before dark/midnight/ten pm...can't go running alone after dark... etc.). It is ignored, dismissed (ask yourself, with what other group would we be so OK at dismissing these situations?). It is real. It is my life and that of every woman.