When I first registered for college, I was a political science and communications major. Shortly after I graduated from high school, things changed and I felt called to ministry in the church. I wasn't sure what it would look like, but I thought seminary and ordination would be in my future. I was incredibly excited about this possibility, and I knew that at the very least, I had been called to study theology. When I told one of my friends who happens the son of a Southern Baptist minister, he quoted the Bible at me and told me I couldn't do it because I'm a woman.
When my mother was starting college, she received a full ride scholarship to the college in her town. Her high school guidance counselor told her she shouldn't take it because she'd be taking the place of a man. She went anyway, but has frequently looked back on that moment and wondered about her abilities, especially when it came to traditionally male disciplines like math and science.
There is no way I can make those who are not women understand the discrimination that a woman faces day in and day out. I wish it was possible for men to do a "Black Like Me" sort of investigative journalism story, but it would only scratch the surface of the misogyny (internal and external) women face every single day.
Every time I discuss the pay gap, the lack of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, the fact that only 17% of national political offices are held by women, I get rebuffed. I get told that I don't understand the statistics (despite having done my research and read article after articles that breaks down the statistics and take a look at the actual studies). I get told that the perception of discrimination is not the same as intentional discrimination - as though hiring managers must wake up in the morning thinking "I'm going to discriminate against women today" in order for the statistic to be legitimately reflective of discrimination. I get told that these things can be explained because "women just don't want to go into those fields." I get told that I don't understand it.
But I do, far more than they know.
So I issue this challenge to the men in my life.
For one week, I want you to consider how others would perceive you if you made that decision as a woman.
Before you speak up and disagree with an authority figure in class, think: are you merely being assertive, or could you be painted as a "bitch"? Would being called a bitch stop you from speaking up?
Before you go out dancing, consider what message your clothes may be sending about you - should you cover up so you don't accidentally "advertise" to an unscrupulous person and risk sexual assault?
When you do go out and get a drink in a bar, consider how carefully you have to watch your drink so that someone doesn't slip a drug in (this actually happens - a friend of mine was roofied just last night and woke up in the ER).
If you're applying for jobs, consider whether or not being a woman could get in the way of you being hired - is this a position of power over others? Statistically, you're less likely to get the job. And if it's an entry level one with opportunity for advancement, consider how easy it'll be for you to move up. Again, assertiveness for a man is often perceived as bitchiness for a female.
Think about what it'd be like if you decided to run for office. Would you have a better chance of winning? What would the media say about you? How would it be perceived if you showed emotion - like crying - in a setting with constituents, talking about something important to you?
These are the things women must consider day in and day out. When considering jobs, it is important for women to see other women in those same positions of power - it's much harder to be the pioneer in a position of power than it is to follow someone else's already blazed trail. If I know a woman can do it, I'm more likely to try.
When going out, we have to keep a careful eye on our surroundings for our own safety - 1 in 6 women will be the victim of either an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. When deciding on clothing, we have to think about whether or not it would give men the wrong perception that we are their property and that we're "advertising."
Women still have a long way to go - we do have a lot more opportunities and possibilities than our mothers before us or their mothers before them - but until we stop seeing "What designer are you wearing?" as a legitimate question for the female Secretary of State, we still have lots of work to do. And it would help if we had empathetic men on our side, men who recognized the privilege that being male affords them.
So take a few minutes this week, strap on a pair of pumps, and walk a few miles in my shoes. You might just be surprised.