Recently Emma Watson, as the spokesperson for UN Women Global, made a speech at the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) conference to launch the gender equality platform #HeForShe. It was a very commendable speech. There were questionable remarks (males have definitely been ‘invited’ to partake in feminism many a times, and males should not be convinced to get involved just because patriarchy adversely affects their own gender), but overall it was empowering for the actress, and aimed to support women around the world.
Not a full twenty-four hours after Ms. Watson delivered her speech there were rumours and threats about nude photos being leaked onto the internet.
Preying on powerful women: a phenomenon we have seen over and over again.
Why do people feel the need to tear down strong, independent women who voice their opinions?
Unfortunately the answer is all too obvious (to those paying attention).
Just look at Hilary Clinton’s campaign experience during the 2008 Presidential Elections.
When Hilary Clinton spoke to a gymnasium full of people in New Hampshire, not moments into her speech were there audience members chanting “Iron My Shirt”.
Why? Because when someone deviates from the norm it makes others uncomfortable. Because when someone signifies change it intimidates others. Because people don’t care what they have to say or what brilliant ideas they have housed in their mind. Because if they change the perception people have of an individual so to threaten the respect they receive, that person cannot command authority. And if that individual doesn’t have authority, he or she cannot transform the status quo.
It is fear, close mindedness, and superiority disguised as mockery.
Let's look at Nancy Pelosi, the first woman in history to serve as Speaker of the House (in other words the next person in the Presidential line of succession after the Vice President). Nancy Pelosi is a perfect example of yet another woman put through the ringer because she was determined to aspire beyond society’s expectations of her capabilities.
Nancy Pelosi has suffered years of sexism serving in the public eye. Beyond the general obstacles facing any woman breaking new ground and serving in public office, Pelosi has been subjected to obscenely inappropriate comments. One media critic, Michael Savage, ‘jokingly’ commented on his radio program, “[Pelosi is] Mussolini if he came back and wore ugly clothing and put on bad makeup and had too much Botox.”
Because that’s what we would be discussing if Nancy was a man, right?
Even women gravitate to putting down powerful women.
When Sheryl Sandberg came out with her book Lean In, people barely finished the first chapter before rebutting her thesis and personally critiquing her.
New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Maureen Dowd both distorted a quote of Sandberg’s, “I always thought I would run a social movement, which meant basically work at a nonprofit. I never thought I’d work in the corporate sector,” into simply, “I always thought I would run a social movement”. Why? Apparently to make her sound more “arrogant”, as column claims she is.
But even if she had voiced this standalone statement, why does her ambition automatically turn her into an arrogant she-devil? Why is there so much resentment and derision towards women like Sandberg and Mayer? Why is ambition, cutthroat and perseverance, stubbornness when we discuss strong willed women?
USA Today published a column dismissing Sandberg’s advice on women in the workplace and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s approach to motherhood. The article stated the two women were ‘guilting’ females who do not aim to be superheroes, and put forth an argument that essentially boiled down to ‘they are different from the masses’. This seems obvious to me, as they are exceptional women, but what do I know?
Preying on powerful women has been an issue since the beginning of time. When women were fighting for the right to vote they were mocked and even had food thrown at them when protesting.
Fast forward numerous decades, and females are still being tormented for speaking up. Though it may no longer come in the form of a tomato, women are patriarchy’s punching bag.
The only way to conquer these punches is to let them keep coming, and throw a few left hooks ourselves.
“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G. D. Anderson