One of the most common arguments I run up against is that feminism has no place in the United States in 2017. The assertion is that pervasive sexism no longer exists, women have all the rights they require and there are no societal barriers in place.
This is often painted in contrast to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries where women are often illiterate, unable to drive, married off as children, stoned as part of honor killings, undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), and a variety of other practices that render them severely oppressed.
The rampant and often violent nature of these societies is unacceptable and women are in desperate need of liberation. I do not deny that in the least, and I absolutely do not want to invalidate those real and persistent experiences. Nor am I saying that certain feminist criticisms in the West (ex: “manspreading”) hold a candle to what those women suffer.
But the fact that women in certain countries have it worse is not an argument to stop striving for a better America. Because the reality is that while many, many women have it worse – many women have it better. The United States recently ranked 32nd on an index of gender equality, after countries including Sweden (ranked first), Finland, Norway, Belgium, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Canada, Israel, Greece, Estonia, Serbia and Kazakhstan.
And there are news stories every week to remind us. In the past week alone, a lawyer representing an alleged rapist argued that women are “especially good” at lying because they are the “weaker sex” as part of what he considered a valid defense. And more seriously, two Detroit doctors were arrested for performing FGM on seven-year-old girls.
Let us not forget that contentment is the enemy of progress. We have a long way to go to gender equality, and we should be solving problems instead of pointing fingers at other countries who treat women worse than we do.