There’s a big issue right now. Bigger than just me and you. It’s something that can only be fully understood by looking at the big picture. But it is about me. And it’s also about you.
Do not be fooled, just because women and men are technically equally, does not mean that we actually are.
In the 1970’s, women made up 5% of the total population of the top five orchestras in the US. After the implementation of blind auditions (aka all factors of identifications are eliminated, including the sound one’s shoes make), there was an increase in female representation by 46%! For those of you wondering, this took place tens years after the incorporation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The problem seen in this example is that, yes, women and men are equal, but our society has conditioned those in power that men are just inherently better than women. The argument here is that men “outperformed” women…by 95%. If that is truly the case though, we should have seen a similar distribution of gender after the blind auditions. But we did not. Instead, we found that men and women perform pretty equally when talent alone is considered.
So why does this matter? It may be easy to think that this example doesn’t pertain to you. You’re not a musician, you don’t have any desire to join an orchestra. But this is just one quantified case of discrimination that happens across all spectrums of employment, academia, politics, and so on. Chances are, if you’re a woman, you’ve experienced this scenario (or will at some point) whether you know it or not.
And, apart from the ethical unfairness of it, it doesn’t seem to really hurt people that much, right? First, let’s be clear, it does hurt people. From an economic standpoint, when a bias (intentional or not) like this prevents qualified people from assuming the roles they deserve, it means that people are not meeting their full economic potential. In other words, our economy is not doing as well as it could be doing. Second, this type of bias does not just affect employment. It spans into everyday thinking. When we allow for backhanded bias, we open our society to injustices like Brock Turner.
Yea, I’m going there.
You can think all you want about Brock Turner’s innocence or guilt, but the real kicker in his case is that a jury, of his peers, found him guilty of three separate counts of sexual assault. A jury believed that Brock Turner’s actions were unlawful and trusted that he would be punished accordingly. However, the judge presiding on his case, Judge Aaron Persky, decided that young, charismatic Brock needed only six months in jail (even less for good behavior) to “learn his lesson”.
Six months is the only retribution we get for his heinous crime. Because any more time in jail would “severely impact” his mental health and future prospects. Because we live in a world that cares more about the psychological impact prison may have on a convicted sexual predator than the physical, psychological, and legal trauma already assumed by the victim of his crime.
As millennials, we are often critiqued for our need to always “win” something. But let’s not forget who gave us the trophies in the first place. Judge Aaron Persky.
He didn’t just give Brock Turner the trophy of the lowest sentence possible. He gave me the trophy of having to clutch my pepper spray as I walk from my car to my apartment. He is the reason that I fear my male peers in the night. He showed me that I am not only a natural target for sexual assault, but that my experience, my life, and my future is not worth as much as a rapist’s.
I wish I could say that the case of Brock Turner is an outlier. But Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s experiences not only confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States but also that our country inherently values the prospects of a criminal than the testimony of a woman.
I’m a woman and that’s why it matters.