Feminism mansplained to me
I worked at an historical archives center this summer alongside other university students. At some point, I was talking to a colleague about how I often thread a thin line between being angry or being amused when I read articles about women in our 1910-1930s newspaper collection. One of my colleagues (currently pursuing a master’s degree in literature) jumped in the conversation. We pretty much had the following exchange:
Him: Ha, as long as you don’t become one of those crazy feminists!
Me: And what if I am already?
Him: Ah, well, that’s up to you really, you could put that energy to better use. It’s not like there’s still sexism to fight.
Me: Oh, I can assure you that sexism still exists, even if I agree that it’s less obvious than it was in the 1930s newspapers. Just look at sexual assault statistics, the wage gap, workplace discrimination, and all that jazz. That stuff is still happening as we speak.
Him: Well, you know, that’s just the way things are. Those things are hardly important problems in today’s world, if you compare them to racism, poverty in Africa and Latin America, pollution or human trafficking. Anyway, the sexism that we have today is just the leftovers of, like, two thousand years of patriarchy! It can’t just change overnight, you know! As a matter of fact, it’s probably going to take another two thousand years before mentalities completely change. So why bother?
I ran out of time to explain to him that the patriarchy had lasted so long exactly because of the people who supported the status quo. Some supported it with their ardent approval, and some with their indifference, just like he did. Why bother, he said? Because if he, a brilliant educated young man, is still lacking the historical perspective to understand the utility of feminism all the while manipulating century-old newspapers, then the world needs change more than ever.