What Started It All

By Juliana Jiménez

In January last year, I received a forwarded email from a male member of my own family. It was one of those cheesy email jokes that get forwarded around. The subject line was: “How the world changed when I was born: The Good Wife’s Manual”. The body of the email said “Go back to the basics!” and then a few of these:

"Listen to him. His problems are more important than yours."

The images say things like, “Let him speak first, remember that his issues are more important than yours”, “A good wife always knows her place,” and “Look beautiful.” 

There were about a dozen of these. As I read in disbelief I was expecting – hoping – to find at least a shed of an ironic twist. I tried to find the humor in it, but I couldn’t. I could not get it out of my head. Was there something wrong with me? Why did I feel like there was something else here? If I were black, and someone sent me a slavery manual saying “Let’s go back to the basics! LOL!” was I supposed to take that in jest as well? What if I were Jewish and someone sent me a Nazi manual? If this was different, how so? I felt I just couldn’t ignore this. So I wrote back, asking some of these questions, knowing that there would be a reply, and that it might not be apologetic or understanding.

A few weeks later, I ran across “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedanthe seminal feminist text, perhaps “the one that started it all” back in the 60s, and after that family confrontation, I felt compelled to pick it up.

After that, came “The Second Sex” by philosopher Simone de Beauvior, and then New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof‘s “Half the Sky”, books that have deeply transformed my view of the human experience.

I woke up to a reality much, much sadder than I expected, and that I would’ve liked, for my own sake. Some nights, I sort of wished I hadn’t read them, because waking up to reality, to the responsibility of being human, can be painful. But if I were to accept the fact that before being a woman, I am a human, I had to accept that responsibility, and live up to it. This blog aims to put into words and actions this new view, our new ability to dissect and analyze the underlying and sometimes not-so-subtle reality of misogyny we live in to this day.

I cried with those books. I cried for many women I know who are defined by the men in their lives, for so many women that live as second-class citizens. These are women who die from honor killings, acid attacks, starvation, stonings or preventable diseases, women who cannot drive or own property –but who are themselves seen as male property, women who are sold into prostitution, women who are raped and then blamed for it –women who, in short, live subhuman lives, simply because they are women. To borrow from the words of Nicholas Kristof, “the central moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery. In the 20th Century it was totalitarianism. Now, it is the oppression of women and girls around the world.”

Misogyny and sexism have many different manifestations. We aim to shed light on the problems and solutions around us, and to explore these issues in conflict zones, the media, pop culture, philosophy and in our own lives.

My contribution to this blog I owe to that cheesy email, and to the awakening it spurred.

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