While themed months can sometimes become tiresome or overkill, sometimes they can be useful as a prompt for discussion.
March is Women’s History Month. March 8 is International Women’s Day, which though it has political origins, is an opportunity to celebrate women. This year’s official United Nations theme is #BalanceforBetter — “A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?”
Equality and respect for women can often be a hot topic. Feminism can often evoke eye-rolling, especially when it can be perceived as taken to extremes. Men and women are different — there is no arguing with biology. The last year of the #MeToo movement has evoked both historic change, as well as more polarizing views of women’s equality and the definitions of sexual assault and harassment.
However, we can be different and still equal. Women today may not face the same obstacles that our predecessors successfully overcame. Yet still, women in various ways are still sometimes treated differently — lesser, unequal. Salaries continue to be evidence of that. According to the American Association of University Women, as of 2013, year-round, full-time female employees make 78 percent of what their male counterparts make — and this hasn’t changed in a decade. Take a look at our own town of Darien — when First Selectman Evonne Klein took office in 2004, the office’s salary was reduced to $75,000 — $10,000 less than the previous First Selectman Bob Harrel was making.
And it goes beyond salary — women in leadership positions can often be judged by a different standards than their male counterparts. Aggressive behaviors by female leaders — especially when said power is at stake — are sometimes painted controlling or catty versus commanding and strong. Actions not taken by female leaders are criticized as weak while those of men might be considered thoughtful.
Passionate reactions by women are painted as “hysterical,” a loaded word that implies losing control of one’s emotions. And let’s not even begin to get into the difference between how men and women are judged by appearance — looks, weight and age are constant targets on both the small and global level. Not that it never happens to men — but it happens to women a lot more.
Fundamentally, what all this is about, and what women want and deserve, is respect and equal treatment. Regardless of what you think of the #MeToo movement, it cannot be disregarded for its impact on society’s view of sexual harassment, and even assault. Let’s hope that March reminds us that society needs to continue to evolve and change until “Me Too” becomes “We Too” — We too respect each other and deserve respect. We too understand where one another is coming from. We too empathize with each others’ struggles. When Me becomes We, we’re that closer to closing the gap between you vs. me — becoming united against inequality.