Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Minnesota's Women?

by Maddi Frick

Last Wednesday, I went to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota’s Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota Road to Equality Tour stop in Grand Rapids, hosted at the Blandin Foundation. 

That was a lot of titles with capitalized words, but to cover the basics, the event looked at information about women in Minnesota about economic, safety, health and leadership topics and compared the data to that of men and women in other regions. 

While I wasn’t up on the specific percentages, most of the data wasn’t surprising- 

  • The wage gap keeps $1 million dollars from the average Minnesota woman over her lifetime 
  • 33% of women in Minnesota report being sexually or physically attacked by mid-life 
  • 55% of Minnesotan women are overweight or obese
  • Only 14 seats of 72 new corporate board seats created in 2010 were filled by women, and those 14 were all white 

The room was packed.  The presenters kept us engaged.  The facts were often sad, but at times hopeful. 

But I have to admit, while fact after fact proved to me that women are still to this day not treated equally in society, there was something else that made me incredibly disappointed in the state of women’s affairs.  Two men came to the presentation.  I’m not complaining that men dared to show up, I’m complaining that only two men cared enough to show up.

This is the root of my frustration with being female in this region.  Feminism is a word that represents an aggressive know-it-all who doesn’t wear a bra.  We’ve moved past the blatant perception of feminism but haven’t replaced the understanding with a definition that suits 2012.  

This is a national problem, but I feel like our region is even more behind than the rest.  I’ve been forced to battle my own stereotypes on the differences between men and women the past few years and find it frustrating to return Up North.  I find more women critical of other women’s looks and more men who won’t clean the kitchen.

It isn’t enough to have equal opportunities in the workplace.  When you meet a little girl, don’t comment on how pretty she is or how cute her clothes are- ask her about her dreams and the books she’s read.  And do the same for little boys.  

A lot of our problems could disappear if we created a culture of knowledge, goals and a good attitude instead of one of segregated roles and stereotypes.

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