ANOTHER Gender Gap?! This Woman’s Writing.
My boyfriend sent me an article earlier today that he knew I would find fascinating. Well, I would call it more angering than fascinating. Caroline and I have discussed the gender gap in politics, in business, and even on Wikipedia. What is the nature of the gender gap being discussed all over the internet today, thanks to an article in Slate by Meghan O’Rourke? The gap between male and female writers at magazines.
Is it just me, or does the media all of a sudden seem to be covering the gender gap between men and women in the U.S. more than ever? Or were discussions of the gender gap always this prominent and I simply didn’t notice? I hate to admit it, but the latter is very possible. Young women of my generation grew up hearing, “You can be whatever you want to be. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!” And for the most part, no one did outwardly tell us we couldn’t be astronauts, police officers, or even president of the United States because of our gender.
I grew up in the age of the Spice Girls cheering “Girl Power!” as they sold out stadiums worldwide, singing songs that portrayed a man as a “Wannabe.” The age of the U.S. Women’s soccer team winning the Women’s World Cup, as I watched on the sidelines, juggling my Mia Hamm soccer ball in the hopes that I too someday could be a soccer star. (I also got my first sports bra the Halloween that followed their win in Pasadena – I went as Brandi Chastain (see left).)
I wouldn’t say I was ignorant of any gender gap, I just didn’t see it as a problem, because no one was talking (at least to me) about it. During my first three years at Georgetown, I still had a level of consciousness about gender disparity comparable to that of the little girl who dreamed of being “Sporty Spice.”
Last semester, in a departure from my first three years of college, three of the five courses I took were gender-based. Much of what I learned did not surprise me, but one instance in particular gave me a sense of uneasiness that I just couldn’t shake. I was researching for my paper on women’s participation in post-genocide reconstruction in Rwanda for my “Women’s International Human Rights” class when I learned that Rwanda has not only met but exceeded it’s quota of 30% representation for females in its parliament, so that over half of its representatives were female, I was impressed. 30% is the threshold set by the UN at the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women.
I was so pleased to have found an example of progress for women’s rights in the world that I almost didn’t hear when Donna Brazile, my professor for “Women in American Politics” told the class that less than 20% of the U.S. Congress is female. I knew it was low, but — that low?! Women have been outvoting men in American elections since 1980! And, with the 2010 midterm elections, it got worse for women, as the number of women serving in the House decreased. As a Culture and Politics major whose chosen thematic focus includes human rights, I had become accustomed to looking at the developing world’s human rights situation with the comfortable (yet unconscious) assumption that it wasn’t like that in my country!
So here I am. So here we are. Now that we know, what are we going to do about it?