We are doing it: creating a genderless playing field

We are doing it: creating a genderless playing field

Ilena Peng

What, do you think that feminism means you hate men? -Cyndi Lauper

I didn’t understand the term “feminism” until 9th grade. And a part of me still doesn’t. But nowadays, I’ve managed to make do by developing my own definition of feminism. To me, feminism is separate from empowering females, although both are equally important. It’s not even necessarily about females. It’s simply about advocating for a society where accomplishments are the sole determining factor of someone’s ability – a society where gender becomes irrelevant.

Growing up, late at night, sometimes I’d hear my mom yelling angry words in a language I didn’t understand. Those phone calls would be followed the next day with a discussion where my mother would tell me that accomplishments were worth more than gender. I can’t pinpoint exactly when but after a couple years passed, I came to understand that many, if not all, societies had some sort of structure where one’s gender obscured one’s accomplishments. The paternalistic society that my grandparents grew up in was often the cause of those yelled conversations. The son of the family carries the last name of the family and thus is supposedly more important to the family. At least that was the logic behind it all, I think. My mom begged to differ. So do I.

Illustration by Ilena Peng

Breakfast life lessons shaped my definition of “feminism,” a definition that has been then misconstrued by part of the media, simply sublime internet memes and radical feminists themselves. Feminism, by its very definition, promotes equality between genders, which is something I wholeheartedly believe in. Yet in the future, if I don’t get a job I apply for I’d rather it be because I wasn’t good enough – not because I have lingering excuses that male favoritism cost me the position.

Although gender inequality is real, I don’t think that should make it an excuse for failure. But I have to wonder how much it would take for my accomplishments to outweigh all morsels of gender inequality. If I refuse to blame gender inequality for my failure and say it is because I am, indeed, worse at this job than the guy next to me, how much work will I have to put in so that every employer will choose me over him? Which begs the even bigger question: if I put in all the work in the world, would that be enough?

Gender inequality exists. Arguing otherwise seems almost futile and as much as I despise it, I think it’s almost too idealistic to believe that one day it will just vanish into thin air. In 2014, women on average earned 79 percent of men’s average annual earnings according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Although that might seem like a large percentage, women’s incomes are still unequal. Innate prejudice is part of our human nature, and it will be difficult to change.

As International Women’s Day rolls around, it marks yet another year that I’ve believed in feminism. I still believe in the Women’s March and those who speak out about feminism because those steps are so important. They narrow the gap of gender inequality to a point where if I don’t get a certain job, it will be because I’m not good enough. There will be something I can do to make sure I’m good enough; it won’t be left to the universe to decide. And that’s why I’ll continue believing. To me, feminism isn’t necessarily about “man hating” or being better, nor is it about females in particular. It’s simply about leveling the playing field for everyone to create a society where accomplishments override gender. If the argument is still that a son is more important than a daughter because he carries on the family’s name, then perhaps I just won’t change my last name.