Girl on Girl: Your Voice is Stronger Than Your Bra Strap
Originally published on CUIndependent.com on November 14, 2015
Republican candidate Donald Trump never ceases to amaze me. Tuesday’s fourth Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee was filled with memorable moments. The winner, though, has got to be Mr. Trump’s disappointing comment concerning Mrs. Carly Fiorina’s participation in the debate.
“Why does she keep interrupting everybody?” he said, earning boos from the audience.
Trump didn’t even bother to include Fiorina’s name in his comment. She was left a simple she. It was as if the female candidate had already ruined the debate because of her gender. This was not Trump’s first public dig at Fiorina.
Another comment includes the one he said in an interview with Rolling Stone in September. “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” he said.
One of Fiorina’s few responses to Trump’s sexist attitude was a comment that as a successful woman, “you’re either a bimbo or you’re the other other b-word.”
The public tension between Fiorina and Trump makes for a great example of an enormous issue that all women face every day. As both Hilary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are experiencing on a large scale, women are often persecuted, disrespected, and degraded for entering male-dominated fields. There are clear discrepancies in the way that women are expected to behave in order to satisfy a male-powered society, whether it’s a presidential debate, a classroom setting, or everyday banter between women and men.
Universities are an example of this. Here at CU, the dramatic differences in gender representation in certain fields are alarming. You may not be surprised to find that our school currently enrolls 56 percent males and 44 percent females, which is a 3,671 student difference. Our Engineering school is proudly teaching 5,975 students, 25 percent female and 75 percent male. The public records of Arts and Sciences students reveal that of the 17,690 students, 48 percent are women and 52 percent are men. These records do not, however, include the individual majors within this enormous department. It fails to shed light on the evident gender differences in fields such as physics and theater.
When women are marginalized by a dominating male presence, the scarcity of their voices become exactly what Fiorina labels it: bimbo or bitch. There is severe pressure on females, like they have something to prove beyond being an eager student. Their comments must have incredible depth, or they are deemed incompetent by their fellow students. They become a bimbo. Yet they must not comment too much, because that would surely be too eager of behavior from a woman earning themselves the bitch label. When women enter male-dominated fields, they are better off complying with social expectations of that environment. That, or they “risk” being burdens or plain-old pains-in-the-asses.
These “normalcies” come from the smallest scale of daily communication between women and men. The dichotomy of presence in opinion, question, and personality for the gender binaries comes from a deeper social history. We are all part of the problem.
The woman who goes above the expectations of a classroom gets no more recognition than a man who just sits there. A woman understanding her supposed “place” in these environments, however, would have to shut up to satisfy the situation. In other words, making the men more comfortable by removing themselves from the center of the conversation, or even it’s sidelines.
Men, like good ol’ Trump, don’t seem entirely willing to scooch over. Don’t worry guys, allow me to reassure you that society can take it.
Women need to demand a place in the conversation. Until this is the new normal, someone is going to have to take on the bimbo and the bitch until society accepts that you can wear a D-cup bra and have a grade-A brain all at the same time.
Your voice is not just important, it is crucial. Your questions are valid and you must demand they be valued. You can push change and you can launch it. It’s as courageous as raising your hand in class. As brave as standing up for yourself when you feel shut down. Be so fearless you can stand up for your thoughts with confidence and articulate them into words.
To the everyday woman who has felt second best to a man in any conversation: your sisters need you to speak up. We need to lean on each other to further women’s presence in historically male-operated fields. When a friend asks what he might be impressed by, encourage her that what he should be awed by is her strength in individuality. When a teacher asks a question, your guess is as good as any. Encourage yourself to respond. When a classmate whispers the answer to you, encourage her to say it out loud because she deserves that credit.
So to answer your question, Ignorant Trump, “she” keeps “interrupting” everybody because she has something insightful and remarkable to share. And you don’t have to agree with her, but you had better respect what she has to say, because she is not inferior to you or any other man at a podium. To the future female engineers, business women, philosophers, actresses, and musicians–take hold of your fields with passion and innovation. Try your best, listen, learn, and share. You are radiant and powerful. You have much to offer so insist that you are heard.
Photo by Abigail Bell