I was really fascinated by Ms. O’connell’s presentation on women’s differing viewpoints on gender equality. Ms. O’Connell outlined the women's suffrage movement and how the differing opinions started to form when women began to speak out about wanting the right to vote. They felt that getting the right to vote was pertinent to obtaining equality. However, they were quickly countered by surprisingly other women who advocated that their place in society was to raise children and maintain the house. They viewed this as a privilege and something that placed them on a pedestal that was even higher than man and that voting was a detriment to this status. Both of these sides had educated women defending their beliefs. We learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who pushed for suffrage. While women like Catherine Beecher were content without voting and viewed themselves as fortunate the way they were. I found this interesting because I had always assumed it was a desire of a large amount of women to vote and it was the men who prolonged the women's ability. When I discovered that in reality there were a lot of women perpetuating the idea that women should not vote I was very intrigued, but also saddened.
Ms. O’connell gave us readings that also outlined the two different views from two different women. One of the readings was from Phyllis Schlafly who was discussing the issues she had with Equal Rights Amendment. She mentioned many different ideas, but the one that stuck out to me the most was the satisfaction with being “privileged” and allowing men to do things in life that are considered harder. She also reference the bible a lot also because in the bible gender roles are constructed. She stated, “The second reason why American women are a privileged group is that we are the beneficiaries of a tradition of special respect for women which dates from the Christian Age of Chivalry.” She believes women are given a “special respect” for what they do and they should be grateful for that, not want to work more.
The other reading was Gloria Steinem’s hearing for the Equal rights amendment where she pointed out that women need to gain equal rights because it is truly an injustice that men have more of a say in politics and that family life is unequal. One of her points that connected with me was when she started to explain how women are treated so unequally, it is a myth to think that women hold a respected position in society. She wrote, “women suffer this second class treatment from the moment they are born. They are expected to be, rather than achieve, to function biologically rather than learn.” She points out examples where women are treated so unequally and advocated for a change.I found it hard to believe that women actually felt the same way as Phyllis Schlafly and I had always thought that this notion must have died out when women finally got the right to vote in 1919. However, this was not the case. The arguments are still used today for why women should accept their role in society the way that they already are and change is not necessary. This was proven Ms. O’Connell posed the question, “Why would 53% of white women vote for Donald Trump?” A large number of women voted for Trump when it is evident Trump does not take women seriously and would not aid women in achieving equality. We decided that it was because women had other priorities. But even Gloria Steinem had other priorities when she wrote “I had deep misgivings about discussing this topic <gender equality> when National Guardsmen are occupying our campuses, the country is being turned against itself in a terrible polarization, and America is enlarging an already inhuman and unjustifiable war. But it seems to me that much of the trouble in this country has to do with the “masculine mystique”. Even though there are a lot of problems in the country and there are many other things that could be focused on, the gender inequality should still be a priority.