GOOD Morning Wilton received this op-ed from a young woman in Wilton named Caroline Wilson, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Wilton High School. She has certainly taken notice of the first selectman’s race⎯with two women running for that office.
As a fifteen year old girl, I notice the world I live in is biased to favor men. From my point of view, it’s obvious. After ten years of education, I’ve learned that men, not women, rule the world. A child doesn’t even have to be explicitly taught that⎯look around the classroom and see a poster of the presidents of the United States, all of whom are men. Or maybe a picture of Albert Einstein, the brilliant, German, male, scientist. I have nothing against these men. They’re all fine people, who have done amazing deeds. But the little girls staring up at the walls are wondering, Why are there no other girls? Or even worse⎯they don’t even question it and accept it as normal.
You can see, then, why I’m ecstatic that not just one, but two women are running for the position of first selectman in Wilton. This is long overdue. My mother, a Wilton High School graduate (class of ‘83), recalls Rose Marie Verrilli as Wilton’s first selectman who served the town from 1975 to 1981. She was followed by Peggy Gill from 1981 to 1986. Twenty-nine years have passed since a woman has held this position. Now, with Deborah McFadden and Lynne Vanderslice in the running, it’s safe to say that Wilton will be soon in manicured hands.
In no way am I saying that Bill Brennan hasn’t fulfilled his duties as a first selectman. For 10 years, he has led Wilton through thick and thin. But now, the time has come for new leadership and our town to recognize gender equality.
Before I continue, let me define feminism. It is not the belief that women are superior to men. It is the belief that women and men are equal on social, political, and economic levels. A feminist is someone, male or female, who believes in, and advocates for, feminism. Feminists are often stereotyped as ‘extremists’ who believe men are evil. What’s more, the word itself is exclusively female. There’s no mention of men, even though they are half of the definition. The word is partial to females due to the inequality that currently exists between the sexes. The word itself is also why many men do not support the cause. Ironically, it’s literally too feminine.
Ms. McFadden and Ms. Vanderslice may not realize their impact on many of the young women in this town. A vast majority of my (female) friends would consider themselves feminists. The rest agree on the ideals, but they don’t call themselves anything. We now have role models who live down the street. We can relate to them a little more than the men who have traditionally steered this country since it’s inception. As feminists, we know that our biological sex shouldn’t hold us back from a job or position of any kind.
There are individuals who think women and men are equal, and that I’m addressing an issue that doesn’t exist. Allow me to introduce the wage gap. In 2013, women in the US on average made 78.3% of what men made. That means that for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes around 78 cents. It’s not like women sit through three quarters of a meeting and just leave. They don’t work a six hour day while their male coworkers go through the usual 9 to 5. Their work isn’t missing 21.7% of what it needs. They just receive less pay. Why? The Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963. That was over fifty years ago. How much have we accomplished in those 52 years? We sent a man to the moon, tore down a wall, won an ice hockey game, killed a terrorist, and had an African American president, to name a few. These accomplishments are by no measure small–they are great moments in American history, and a source of pride and inspiration. But even with all these great things, we still haven’t been able to give a woman a paycheck that’s equal to the one received by the man sitting in the cubicle next to hers. This is a real issue.
Wilton’s future first selectman⎯or, should I say, selectwoman⎯is a small step. It’s not going to change the world. Girls are not going to be suddenly empowered. Feminism won’t really change all that much. Misogynists will still be sticking their noses up at women and looking down upon them. But any step is a step, no matter how miniscule.
However, this brings up an interesting philosophical question. Will feminism ever be accomplished? People have their own thoughts, and I would be a hypocrite if I said anyone’s opinion wasn’t valid. (One of my personal mottos I try my best to live by comes from Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”) Even if, somehow, women and men were completely equal, there would still be men that spit on women, and vice versa. It’s impossible to make everyone have the same opinion. Just like there will always be people who think that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and African Americans need to sit in a separate train car. It’s simply human nature.
Regardless of universal attitudes towards feminism, many of us in Wilton who call ourselves feminists are happy about this local turn of events. A fifteen year old girl can tell you that she is excited to finally be able to see a bit of herself in her leaders. She knows that the posters on the walls of her former elementary school might still feature males more often than females. But this helps in convincing others that girls and boys are capable of the same things. It’s about time.
Caroline Wilson is a rising sophomore at Wilton High School. She skates for the high school’s girls ice hockey team and plays clarinet in the marching/concert band. In addition, she is also both a classical and jazz pianist. She wishes to pursue a career in writing.