Girls just want a level playing field

I traveled to London last weekend for the wedding of my dear college friend, Stephanie. It was a beautiful day filled with love, laughter and lots of dancing. My accommodations were a mile from the reception, and so I decided I would walk back when things started to calm down around midnight – it was a balmy night with a nice breeze, and the main drag that I stuck to was filled with people.

On the walk, I encountered a group of 20-something inebriated American men who were on their way to another engagement. Since I was tired and slightly tipsy myself, I crossed my arms and gave the best “please don’t talk to me” look I could muster. Instead of letting me pass, however, one of the men veered from the group, picked me up, and threw me over his shoulder.

“You’re coming with us,” he said to me, while I politely, yet sternly told him to, “Please put me down.”

After walking me back from the way I came a block, he finally acquiesced.

“You’re no fun,” he told me, and then walked away.

I was never in any kind of fear – like I said, there were plenty of other people around, and I knew that these “boys were just being boys.” But I was quite angry because boys were just being boys.

I stewed the entire walk back: What right did he have to touch me? Why didn’t I kick him? Why didn’t any of his friends – or anyone on the street! – tell him to knock it off?

I already knew the answer: because guys are socialized to think it’s OK to throw their weight around (while knocking women over in the process).

Of course, not all men would have done what this guy did. But in general, this kind of disrespect is everywhere one looks.

Physically: On the bus or a bench or a pew, a man will spread his knees far apart to take up as much room as possible, while a woman will politely cross her legs, taking up as little.

Financially: In April, President Obama said that full-time working women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and yet the average male White House employee currently earns about $88,600, while the average female White House employee earns about $78,400, according to White House data released Tuesday. This is a 13 percent gap that has not changed since 2009.

Politically: The Supreme Court’s ruling of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday that for-profit employers with “religious objections” can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare. And now, many business owners can use the decision as an excuse to avoid the minor cost of birth control, even if it’s just a way to symbolically thumb their nose at the system. All while erectile dysfunction drugs, penile implants, vasectomies and circumcisions I’m sure will probably continue to be covered.

After venting about these issues on Facebook this past week, my male cousin had finally had enough.

“If I owned a store and you worked for me, and I felt it was against my religious beliefs to pay for morning after pills, and you felt that it was your right to get them, why should I lose my right to give you yours?”

The answer was clear to me.

“Because my right doesn’t affect your body,” I told him. “But yours affects mine.”

Whether we are walking down the street, cashing a check, or just living our day-to-day, women should be angry when boys are being boys. We work just as hard, feel just as strongly, and deserve just as much respect as our counterparts, our equals: men.

Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to

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