Throughout the course of my adolescent life, I’ve found myself in a unique situation that bombarded me with ideologies from both far ends of the typical liberal-conservative spectrum.
I was born in a small town in upstate New York, the son of an American man and a Thai woman, and so was situated in a rural, right-wing enclave (though I didn’t realize it then) just a few hours north of the liberal hotbed of NYC, raised in a quasi-libertarian household. Still oblivious to the existence of the aforementioned political values, my family moved to Hoover, Alabama when I was four years old. Though I don’t have any memories of living there, stories of KKK rallies and other such heinous, almost backward events relayed to me by my parents left me in no need of convincing that it was an awful place to live.
My mom eventually found work as a linguistics professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. This constituted my final major childhood move. Gainesville is essentially the opposite of the town in New York that I was born in. Surrounded by cities such as Palatka, Waldo, and Newberry (all towns consisting of lots of farmland and dominated economically by agriculture), I like to think of Gainesville as a liberal college town oasis in the middle of a fiercely conservative desert. Both of my parents identify as independents when they vote, and tend to lean right on fiscal issues and left on social issues, as do I. I went to high school with a lot of like-minded peers. However, despite the fact that Gainesville stands out as a more progressive town, there is still a stubborn streak of conservative tradition that rears its ugly head.
I attended Buchholz High School, which was situated nearby to Haile Plantation, an enormous, constantly expanding neighborhood filled to the brim with rich, tennis-playing, gold digger housewives and their spoiled children. The percentage of students in a higher socioeconomic class at Buchholz is much higher than that of all other Gainesville area high schools. Even so, in an effort to cling to some sort of muddled tradition, it wasn’t unlikely to find dirt-covered trucks in the school parking lot emblazoned with confederate flags and driven by rich kids in camo. Now, what I just described only details the superficial aesthetics of this culture, and I have no problem with this side of it. However, it was when conversation with these types of kids revealed the tenets of their personal ideology that I began to feel disturbed.
In the graduating class above mine, there was a group of girls who called themselves “The Prudes.” Though I may be oversimplifying, I’ll try to put them into a nutshell: promiscuous party girls who only went so far (you know what I mean) in order to protect vague Christian values. Thus, the name.
Through student government, I became close friends with a girl who, despite sharing similar values as me, spent a lot of time hanging out with these prudes. One day, I received a livid text message from her showing a screenshot of a conversation she had just had with them. The gist of the conversation was this: The Prudes believed that men were superior to women and they needed their assistance in order to thrive. I was caught a bit off-guard, but didn’t think much of it at the time.
I didn’t really think about it again until recently, when I was browsing Twitter and came across a ReTweet from a girl who attended a neighboring high school. She provided the caption “Amen” to a picture that read: “I can honestly say that I don’t believe in feminism, because the second that women are treated equally as men, is the second that we get talked to with disrespect, we don’t get our doors opened for us, or asked if we need help when carrying something heavy. The truth is that women are weaker than men, physically and emotionally and we need them. That’s how we were created.”
I was absolutely disgusted by this. The assertion that women are physically weaker than men is certainly verifiable. I mean, that’s just a simple matter of anatomy. However, the rest of the post is just absurd and frankly pathetic. It’s worrying how conservative values such as this can be so deeply ingrained in a woman that she is essentially self-deprecating, and complacent with the subordination of her gender. Supporting the feminist movement doesn’t mean that you think all women should be considered “one of the guys.” Attaining political, social, and economic equality is a separate matter from superficial issues of etiquette. Just because women are on a level playing field to men doesn’t mean that chivalry and courtesy will die. Imagine it: a woman is struggling to lift a heavy box as she is moving into a new apartment. Her male neighbor comes out to introduce himself. She asks him for help carrying the box because she isn’t strong enough to. “Nah. You make the same salary in the same professions as I do, so you can take care of yourself.”
Are you kidding me!?
How can a woman be so deluded that she believes she is better off being considered inferior to men? How can a father be comfortable knowing that his daughter accepts a subservient position to men, that his daughter will willingly portray herself as weak and needy in order to keep being assisted by men, that she learned from him to act like this? How can a faith that preaches love for all humankind espouse that women are just “created this way”? How can someone believe in anything so blindly? I’m almost afraid to find out how far-reaching and prevalent this type of thought is.
Just to clarify, I am not anti-religious. Every single person on the face of this planet should have the right to believe in whatever they want to, as long as they aren’t infringing on another person’s right to life, liberty and happiness. I am, however, anti-ignorance. I believe nothing should go unquestioned. I am appalled to see women that have grown up in the same town I did swallowing and spitting back out the doctrine of their parents, or minister, or whoever, without questioning it at all. Without thinking about it.
Both genders have their strengths and weaknesses. Men who believe they are superior to women are just as bad, if not worse, than women who believe they are inferior to men. As the fight against rape culture gains more steam, I think this is an important topic to tie in. A woman’s declared subservience to men is without a doubt a catalyst for men who believe a woman owes them sex. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be addressed.
As I prepare to move to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech in the fall, a city that has a similar situation to Gainesville in that it is a strongly liberal city located in a typically conservative southern state, I hope to learn more about this phenomenon and find some way to work toward a solution.