Dear Next President,
I would like to talk to you about the issue of women’s rights in our country. While we can look at our progress and be very proud of what we have accomplished so far, we still have much work to do to make sure that half of our country is getting the representation and basic rights that all citizens and people deserve in our powerful and advanced country. We need to make sure that this next generation of girls is empowered, treated fairly, and most of all, are safe.
While you could argue that women can now vote, own property, and do many thing that they at one point couldn’t do, we still need to look at the fact that women do, in fact, have less rights than men. And considering that women actually outnumber men, this should not be an issue. Many people, women included, have argued against this, and said that we’ve come so far in getting women their rights. However, we must take a look at the reason women’s right are still an issue: they are still being taken away. The only reason we have had to fight for rights in simply because they have repeatedly been denied to us. Starting from a young age, women and young girls are very influenced by social standards. We have grown up in a country where the words “You throw like a girl”, or “You run like a girl” are a legitimate insult. From elementary school and through the years following, girls are taught that being a girl is degrading, insulting, and something to be ashamed of. Over half of our population has grown up being told that they can’t do anything, and it’s a bad thing to be a girl. This is absolutely false, and always has been false.
Once these girls have grown up- and maybe some of them have gotten past those elementary school insults- and are living on their own with jobs, degrees, and families, we are still told that we aren’t good enough, simply because of our gender. We start to see problems like the wage gap, and the fact that we are seen as targets for abuse and assault. For some reason, the question “why do women stay in abusive relationships?” is still being asked more than the far more important question, “why do men abuse women in the first place?”. Is it not more important to stop the abuse instead of blaming women on the fact that they are being harmed by the people they trust? Now let’s look at the very, very real problem of rape. According to a RAINN article, 1 in 6 women are the victim of attempted or completed rape. Now let’s look at a statistic of something most people have thought about in their lifetimes: shark attacks. According to an article by thewildlifemuseum.org, the chances of a shark attack are 1 in 3,748,067. Let’s look at another statistic. The Washington Post reports a few more: out of every 1,000 rapes, only 100 are reported. Two are falsely accused. But out of those 100, only 30 faced trial. And only 10 were put in jail. That means that after 998 rapes, we still have 988 people who have raped other, innocent people, walking free. But we see this irrational fear of sharks much more often than the fear of rape. As a adolescent girl going to college in a few years, those statistics make me nervous and afraid. Girls are taught from a young age how to protect themselves and prevent rape and assault, like not drinking or wearing “scandalous” clothes, but for some reason we don’t take enough time to get the more important point across: people shouldn’t be rapping and attacks girls, and people in general, in the first place. We always focus on the victim and what they were doing, but never focus on the fact that rapists cause rape, not tank tops and denim shorts.
Please take into account the challenges that every single young girl faces in this country. If we want these problems to stop, we need to make sure that young girls are empowered, but not only that, we need to make sure that people are well educated. The reason I am well educated is either because of this project, or the fact that I took it upon myself to educate myself with these all too real facts outside of this letter. I have friends who have independently taken self-defense classes, and know how to protect themselves. But what about the girls who don’t know these facts, and don’t know what to do in a situation where they are in immediate physical danger. We need to make sure that the wage gap is closed, rapists are put in jail, kids are educated about these facts and statistics, and that girls are taught what to do when a poorly educated person tries to harm them.
We need to face these facts: girls are just as important as boys, and shouldn’t be dealing with everyday problems that men will most likely not have to face. As we go into these next four year with a new leader, you must look at the facts and challenges facing over half of the population of the country you are now the leader of. We are looking up to you, and if you ignore these extremely important and pressing problems, then this country won’t have made much progress in these next few years. We need to look at these statistics and stories, and at how we can actually prevent this pattern of repeated problems. We can start with having rape trials that are actually fair and unbiased, so we can see the real story of the victim, and not the promising career of an athlete who ‘didn’t get the punishment he deserved.’ Another possible solution is teaching kids consent from an early age. We get “the talk” as elementary schoolers, why isn’t consent taught with it? Simply teach them what yes and no mean, and how this applies to any type of relationship from a young age. It can be as simple as not hugging a sibling or friend when they don’t want you to. Kids have grown up for generations being taught that it’s the victim’s fault when they are assaulted or abused, and this needs to stop. If we can find new ways to teach kids about consent, we will have a new generation of people, who aren’t constantly hurting each other and then getting away with it. Preventing rape can start from a young age, and so can empowering girls. This starts with simply stopping simple things, like insulting people by calling them girls. From a young age, girls are affected by these words. As a high school girl who has spent the last 10 years listening to the boys in her class call each other girls, and wondering why they think that’s a bad thing, I can tell you the effects of these insults are extremely disheartening. If you don’t think that they are still thinking about these words years after hearing them shouted in gym class, then you are very, very wrong. Think about a generation of women who have grown up hearing that they are strong and can make a difference: isn’t it amazing to think about what they could do? It’d be very easy to make some of these changes, and believe me it would be worth it.
Mendota Heights, MN