Edit desk: Feminist food for thought


My grandmother sends me an article — either a clipping in the mail or a link via email — once or twice a month. She calls these clippings “food for thought.” Sometimes the articles relate to improving writing skills or other advice for aspiring journalists like me. But, mostly, my grandmother sends me articles on feminism.

Cate Peterson

Cate Peterson

Last week, she sent me a piece by Madeleine Albright entitled “My Undiplomatic Moment.” In the piece, she explains why, at Hilary Clinton’s New Hampshire primary, she said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” Although criticized for her remarks, Albright believes the sentiment remains true. She believes women still, even today, have an obligation to help one another.

I agree with her. I think there is a notion among women of our generation that we have accomplished equality and feminism is no longer needed. But as Albright continues, this is the first year there is a viable female presidential candidate. An American woman has never received a major party’s presidential nomination, let alone been elected president. As a representative body, the demographics of Congress should look similar to the demographics of the country. According to the 2014 U.S. Census, women make up 50.8 percent of our country. But out of 535 members of Congress, only 104 are women. That’s less than 20 percent.

The statistics continue. Of all 500 of the Fortune 500 CEOs, only 22 are female. That’s less than five percent.

The playing field simply isn’t equal. In September, the House passed a bill with the goal of defunding Planned Parenthood, one of the largest resources for women’s health. The Bureau of Labor Statistics still reports that women are paid less than men.

Even celebrities are not immune. In 2008, Erin Andrews, a sportscaster, had nude videos taken without her knowledge and distributed online. Andrews was accused of planning the incident as a publicity stunt and was forced against her will to talk about the experience on television. Eight years later, Andrews testified in an ongoing legal battle that the video still affects her everyday.

If you need further proof, look at current entertainment news. Musical artist Kesha recently sought to nullify her recording contract with Sony and producer Dr. Luke. She claims Dr. Luke verbally and sexually assaulted her.

But, on Feb. 19, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge refused to let her walk away from her record deal. She now is still under contract to create six more albums with the same record company that her alleged abuser, Dr. Luke, works for. Many people still do not believe her assault claims and she has been criticized for coming forward as a victim. However, artists like Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty in a domestic assault case, still enjoy musical and financial success.

Sexual assaults against women still happen frequently. Sexual assault is so prevalent that documentaries such as “The Hunting Ground” and “UnSlut” seek to bring attention to the epidemic and the difficulties survivors face. According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Today, in America, 17.7 million women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.
Albright writes that she is concerned that if we do not pay careful attention to our history, what the women of the our past fought so hard for could be lost and we could move backward. She writes the battle for gender equality is still being waged.

I was lucky to be raised in a family of feminists.

I’m lucky to have a mother who taught me that girls are just as strong, smart and persistent as boys. I am lucky to have a father who taught me that girls, just like boys, should speak their minds and fight for what they believe. I am lucky to have parents who never treated me and my sister differently than my brother.

But most of all, I’m lucky to have a grandmother, and her “food for thought,” who taught me that our fight is not yet over.

Cate Peterson, ’18, is an associate news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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