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It’s Time To Stand Up For Women

Campaign 2016 Elections Featured Post Politics

It’s Time To Stand Up For Women

Stand up for women, Washington March

We lovingly tell little girls that they can become anything they desire.

Parents, teachers, mentors and the entire apparatus of popular culture repeat this mantra: any career you conceive, my darling. Any goal you set, my child.

Now is the era when little girls lucky enough to be born in America can grow up equal in stature, esteem and opportunity to the little boys they go to school with.

Too bad it’s a pack of lies.

Adults never tell the full story — the one that admits that little girls will be expected to endure putdowns for being female. That they will hear degrading catcalls about their bodies. That they will have to rebuff unwanted sexual advances and will be expected to remain silent because their hurt can be so easily twisted into their shame.

The proof is playing out before us, live and televised daily. The 2016 presidential campaign has turned into a sordid chronicle of the misogyny of the GOP candidate. But this isn’t about him.

Even more telling is how every new revelation that Donald Trump groped, fondled and kissed women as a matter of entitlement is met with pushback, excuses and blame placed on the heads of the women who are talking about his treatment of them.

As more women come forward with their stories, each is summarily dismissed, diminished or diluted by the absurd forensic cartwheels of his surrogates.

They tie themselves in knots to avoid admitting the obvious: Trump cannot distinguish between lascivious drooling and the action of sexual assault. Locker room talk consists of crude words. That’s not the concern. Trump bragged about actions, specifically sexual assault.

The fact that this still confuses certain people — that the distinction is so easily denied — is how sexism maintains its power. It’s that simple.

This is why Michelle Obama’s speech on Thursday resonated for so many women. It wasn’t just her passion and emotion as she spoke at the Hillary Clinton rally in New Hampshire. It was the way the first lady cut to the core and admitted that she is frightened by what she is experiencing this election cycle. And not just as the wife of the most powerful man in America, but as a woman, as a mother to two daughters.

Obama admitted that such rampant pushback against seeing women as worthy of human decency is painful: “It hurts.”

“We are drowning in it,” she said. “And all of us are doing what women have always done: We’re trying to keep our heads above water. Just trying to get through it. Trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us.”

Obama tapped into the experiences of every woman.

“It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body.”

The next morning, vice presidential running mate Mike Pence clung to the excuse of cluelessness. Of Obama’s speech, he said, “I don’t understand the basis of her claim.”

Perhaps he could reference the more than a million replies that were generated in one evening, under the Twitter hashtag #notokay, to this shoutout: “Tweet me your first assaults.”

I’ll share. There was a young man who routinely entered the small ice cream and dairy store that I ran as a teenager. He’d wait until I was alone. Then he’d take his penis out of his shorts, and sit in a chair by the door, staring at me. I never told anyone until a few years ago.

I never considered telling someone an option. That might cause me to lose the job and would surely cause my parents anxiety. I needed the job to save money for college.

Now, I worry my hesitancy allowed this stalker to escalate his behavior into physically harming another young girl.

Telling women to be defiant does nothing to alter this reality. Women know this too. Sure, strong sisterhoods develop where we console and steel each other to persevere. And the growing numbers of men who are standing with us is uplifting. But all of the messaging of female empowerment shouldn’t be necessary: leaning in, shattering the glass ceiling, Rosie the Riveter girl power and, now, the hilarious spinoffs about pussycats warning about what shouldn’t be touched. Playful, provocative shutdowns of misogyny can only go so far.

Sexual aggression — the behaviors, the attitudes, the excuses that support them — has to stop.

So, yes, young girls, go ahead and dream your dreams. But there will be hurdles and pitfalls and snakes in your path. We can’t deny it any longer because the damaging examples are too numerous and too perfectly framed by the current election.

America is deciding now if it has the courage to fight back on your behalf.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at msanchez@kcstar.com.


Photo: Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to issue its first major abortion ruling since 2007 against a backdrop of unremitting divisions among Americans on the issue and a decades-long decline in the rate at which women terminate pregnancies in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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  1. AgLander October 20, 2016

    When did we sit down for women that now makes it necessary to stand up for them? Sounds like another liberal solution looking for a problem. Just another reason why liberalism is considered a cognitive dysfunction.

    1. I Am Helpy October 20, 2016

      Yes, we get that you’re terrified of women. You remind at every single opportunity, we get it already.

    2. Thoughtopsy October 20, 2016

      When you routinely insult Hillary by using her looks.

      It’s not that hard. Even you can understand it.

    3. Independent1 October 20, 2016

      “iberalism is considered by many to be a cognitive dysfunction.”

      Provide evidence from a credible source to back up that hogwash.

      Here’s some evidence which supports the reality that: Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information.

      Some excerpts gleaned from numerous studies:

      There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in
      childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different
      ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.

      Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to “rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order” and “emphasise the maintenance of the status quo”. Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

      This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies. But what we now see among their parties – however
      intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism.


    4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 21, 2016

      You’re the dysfunctional one and you can’t even discern the problem. That’s why you need to be constantly reminded by us of your affliction. Your adherence to a nihilistic philosophy called American political conservatism has your mind so confused that all you say is idle prattle.
      You possess no clarity of vision, are mean-spirited and bigoted, possessed of an abundance of racist sentiments, are dismissive of women, etc.

      And you call this a healthy mental outlook? Agatha, your character has been bent out of shape as a result of your constant exposure to the “radiation” of conservative attitudes—which would explain your bigotry and insularity.

    5. FireBaron October 21, 2016

      Rush, Shaddup!

  2. Stuart October 20, 2016

    Let’s see, the stereotype is that men (especially military men) are cool under pressure, while women wilt in a flood of emotion. This is reversed with Hillary and Trump.

    And when Trump called her a “nasty woman,” it was good to hear. Just about the best compliment he could pay her. If s/he has to be, I want my president to be nasty. It’s a nasty world.

  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 21, 2016

    For centuries, men have been abusing and taking advantage of women because of a distorted view of their relationship to women. This in part is due to biology and the cultural norms that were erected due to thinking that physical strength equated to the right to take advantage of physically weaker members of society.
    Religions of the past did use language that taken out of context and misinterpreted gave men the impression that they should subjugate women, rather than being contributors to society in the manner of insuring society’s and the family unit’s assault from outside attacks. But Religion did not mean or insinuate that women should be denied the right to advance themselves both in the home and outside of it.
    Which is why men and women must now readjust their thinking and discern the reality, as described clearly by Baha’u’llah, that women and men are equal in mental and spiritual capacities and are to be viewed as “the two wings of the bird of society”.
    By this metaphor, Baha’u’llah intends to edify men to see that suppressing one wing(women) will cause the “bird” to fly erratically and fail to soar, and also by this analogy women must be encourages as early as childhood to strive to do as well as boys in the classrooms, and become doctors, engineers, or whatever else they may aspire to be.
    But there is a proviso which Baha’u’llah spells out—If a family lack the funds to educate both a boy and a girl, then the funding should go to educating the girl, since she is the first educator of humanity.

    Therefore, we can see in retrospect, and judging by Trump’s atrocious behavior, that Donald and the majority of men in the world stand in direct opposition to this Wisdom regarding women and men as expounded on by Baha’u’llah.

    Society in the past didn’t have the spiritual capacity yet to implement the reality of women and men fully in the manner explained by Baha’u’llah, and so humanity progressed along a less sophisticated path.

    But now, with strengthened spiritual and social capacities, we are now able to fully implement the potentiality implied in the metaphor of the bird with the two wings of women and men.


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