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We Cannot Sit Back Down (Gender Equality Speech)

Posted on the 21 January 2011 by Danielleb

We Cannot Sit Back Down (Gender Equality Speech)

The future of feminism.

I wrote this for my AP Language and Composition class. We had to pick an issue that we're passionate about (in my case it's gender equality) and write a speech that mimics Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream."
I’m so happy to be speaking to you today. My generation—and possibly yours, as well—has been accused of taking many things for granted, including prior triumphs for women’s rights.
They say that feminism is dead; perhaps we need to dispel a few things. I know that this conversation will substantiate the strength and determination possessed by our nation’s youngest activists. I know that this conversation is one for the history books.
More than a century ago one of the first women's rights conventions was held in New York state, immortalized—in the feminist arena, anyway—as the Seneca Falls Convention. Influential activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave lively presentations in front of a crowd of 300, concluding with a re-write of the national promise made seven decades earlier: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal."
What these 300 women—and men—had was a simple dream: a world in which both parties would be treated equally, in society and under the strict peripherals of the law. The women, it seems, were tired of being seen as sub-par and treated as sub-human. The men, tired of seeing their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters reduced to the status of livestock.
What these people wanted was justice. What they got was a world against them.
It took nearly 60 years for the United States government to take those like Anthony, Bloomer, and Stanton seriously, but finally on August 26, 1920 what I can only describe as the glorious 19th Amendment was ratified, and women were allowed to enter the political sphere as undisputed, legitimate, registered voters.

We Cannot Sit Back Down (Gender Equality Speech)

This is very similar to my school's motto:
"Failure is not an option." Is it just me,
or is this button freaking awesome?

To say that our progress has halted would be a gross miscalculation. In the past five decades women have seen the legalization of birth control and laws like Roe v. Wade. Women have worked their way into the bloodstream of universities and hospitals, police academies and the military. We are slamming gavels, writing novels, catching criminals, running, jumping, performing, dancing, literately and figuratively building bridges.
When one thinks of things this way, it’s almost too easy to say that we have come “far enough.” Perhaps men and women really are equal. Perhaps we need to just keep quiet, and quit while we’re ahead. Perhaps feminism really is outdated. Perhaps it really is “the dreaded f-word.”
You can think any number of those statements, but you would be wrong. Because what I’ve neglected to say is that while women are going to school, saving lives, and dispelling old myths about womanhood, they’re doing so on $0.77.
$0.77 for every dollar that a man makes for doing the same job. (That number is even lower for women of color.)
Sit there with a straight face and tell me that feminism is dead when:
Forty years after the fact women are being denied birth control and fed misleading information about their sexual health.
Forty years after the fact federally funded abstinence-only programs are feeding young girls (yes, only girls) slogans like “You are... a beautiful rose. Each time you engage in pre-marital sex, a precious petal is stripped away. Don’t leave your future husband holding a bare stem. Abstain.”
Forty years after the fact women have higher rates for depression and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
We Cannot Sit Back Down (Gender Equality Speech)Forty years after the fact women’s bodies are continually degraded in all areas of the media, and violence against them is often glorified or ridiculed.
Forty years after the fact little girls have to suffer broken hearts as they’re told they’re not strong enough, smart enough, worthy enough...
...and yet when we do stand up for ourselves we’re called prudes, whiny, mannish, and a thousand other things that probably aren't appropriate for this speech! We’re told to sit back down!
But now is not the time to sit back down. Now is the time to stand up on our tip-toes, extend our arms to the sky, and confess to the world that we are sick being called whores, sluts, and bitches. We are sick of people taking one look at us and automatically assuming we’re secretaries and nurses, not CEOs and brain surgeons. We are so sick of being seen as less than a sum of our parts.
My greatest dream is that one day, I’ll have a little son and daughter of my own. When my son asks me what it means to be a man, and when my daughter asks me what it means to be a woman, I’ll be able to tell them the same thing:
“The world is going to try to tell you what to do, how to be, and what to think based on the body you’ve got. But what all of those people have forgotten is that we’re all just people. People who cry, bleed, feel the ache of sorrow, and the sweet embrace of pure joy. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you are in life, but how you live it, how you love yourself, and how you love others.”

We Cannot Sit Back Down (Gender Equality Speech)

Life should be a cat's game.

I truly believe that if we come together—every gender and every race, every age and every creed—we will be able to stop the vicious cycle of gender stereotypes and degradation. If we learn to love and respect each other based on internal qualities such as compassion and understanding, and pay less attention to outer qualities such as the absence or presence of breasts, we’ll all be able to live better lives.
I’m not an intensely religious person, but I’ll never forget that little saying that goes something like Eve was taken from Adam’s rib. Not from his foot to be trampled on, nor his head to be above him. But from his chest to walk beside him.
Right beside him.

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