Imagine a stranger coming up to you and saying, “I’m not trying to insult you, but you’re ugly.” Wouldn’t you be upset?
The example may sound farfetched, but it’s exactly what two Baylor Lariat columnists have done over the past two weeks.
In her column “Ring-by-spring stereotype goes both ways,” Lariat staff writer Maleesa Johnson implores readers to “please do not read this [article] as me demeaning housewives,” but she then proceeds to do exactly that. She puts forth an unfounded generalization that “buried within most men at Baylor” is a “chauvinistic, old-fashioned expectation” that men don’t want women to have careers outside of the home. Claiming that these men “target” women for the purpose of “humble servitude,” Johnson cautions women to avoid these men “unless you enjoy making sandwiches.”
Her sentiments echoed those of Lariat arts and entertainment editor Taylor Griffin in her column “Girls hoping for ring by spring should aim higher” from the week before. Griffin thinks it is “utterly pathetic” that women get married before graduating, and she can’t understand how these women have any “self-worth in their professional life.” Griffin claims women who get married are “mostly airheads” anyway–yet another insult with absolutely no backing.
Beneath all this condescending language is the question begging to be asked – why can’t Johnson and Griffin let women decide what’s best for their own lives?
For some reason, these writers aim to tell all women exactly how they should live. Both of these columns essentially tell women that they are worthless if they get married before building a professional career.
A far better response would be to recognize that women are independent people, and they are fully capable of making their own decisions about their careers. If a woman (or a man for that matter) would rather work for a few years before getting married, that is a perfectly reasonable choice. But if a friend decides to get married in college, what right does Griffin have to tell her she has qualities that are “weak and degrading?”
Women are extraordinarily talented and successful in our society because of their intelligence, compassion, and work ethic. They don’t need to be told by someone else which life choices are best for them. They have the right to make such choices for themselves.
Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, advocates a new kind of mindset: “freedom feminism.” Rather than declaring war between the sexes, as Johnson’s and Griffin’s columns do, Sommers recognizes that both men and women are valuable to society.
Sommers also recognizes that both women and men are capable of rational decision-making. Whether women choose to pursue a career or stay at home, Sommers feels no need to criticize those who make different choices. “Put simply, freedom feminism affirms for women what it affirms for everyone: dignity, fairness, and liberty,” she says.
It’s a concept we would do well to remember. Everyone in our society is different. We have different family backgrounds, financial constraints, dreams, goals, and talents.
This is exactly why a newspaper column is no place to tell women how dumb they are if they don’t live their life a certain way. What works for Johnson and Griffin might not be what works for their married friends.
Instead of prescribing a “one-size-fits-all” approach that attacks and belittles others with whom we disagree, perhaps we should make an effort to appreciate and understand the reasoning behind their decisions.
Danny Huizinga | Baylor University | @HuizingaDanny