Stop invalidating women’s issues


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Graphic of a shadow of a man silencing a distraught woman by shushing her.

Ally Formeller, Columnist

Since the founding of the United States, women’s rights have been argued against, politicized, ignored and invalidated. Even in the 21st century, women’s rights seem to be backsliding, and it’s increasingly frustrating to see. 

When women first demanded the right to vote, which was well before 1920, their peers in society felt it was unreasonable to even ask. While the times were changing and women began to have more freedoms, they were still largely expected to act according to traditional values and norms. 

Despite the expectation to be submissive, doting housewives, women did something that at the time was unthinkable: They fought back. 

Women like Ida B. Wells and Lucy Burns led the masses in forming petitions, marching and raising funds for their suffrage. They demanded to be taken seriously and gained the right to vote because of it.  

The 1960s and ‘70s saw the rise of the second wave of feminism, in which women primarily sought equal opportunities within the workplace. Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were only two of the many women pushing women’s issues to the forefront of the national conversation, which was clearly not focused on women’s rights at the time. 

Enter Cecily Strong, a comedian in clown makeup. 

She’s not the face of the fourth wave of feminism, or even necessarily a women’s rights activist. But she’s faced the same problems that many women before her have faced: invalidation and frustration surrounding debates on women’s rights. 

On the Nov. 6 edition of Saturday Night Live’s ‘Weekend Update’ sketch, Cecily Strong spoke out about her own experiences with abortion two months after Texas legislature commenced a bill banning abortion in the state.

“Actually, I really don’t (want to talk about abortion), but people keep bringing it up, so I gotta keep talking about freaking abortion,” she said in the sketch. “It’s a rough subject, so we’re gonna do fun clown stuff to make it more palatable.” 

This is exactly the point; women often have to soften their voices and underplay their issues and experiences in order to not make anyone uncomfortable. 

But these things do happen, whether it be workplace inequality, sexual harassment or abortion, and it is uncomfortable. I know from experience.

Strong’s sketch quickly made waves on social media, with commenters saying that SNL is no longer funny, and that ‘woke culture’ has ruined comedy.

And the sketch certainly played into that trope — it wasn’t meant to be a blatantly funny sketch. Her frustration at the way abortion is branded onto women like a scarlet letter is justified. More than that, it’s relatable. 

The tension builds throughout the sketch, but the discomfort adds to Strong’s argument that women’s rights, abortion in this case, need to be taken seriously. Without access to safe, legal abortions, a bunch of dead clowns could end up in a dark alley, she jokes. It’s uncomfortable and kind of absurd, but it’s the reality that many women face.

As a woman, it’s frustrating to have to debate why I should have rights. Women deserve the right to proper healthcare; women deserve the right to equal treatment in the workplace; women deserve the right to not be sexually harassed. Women shouldn’t have to go undercover to report on unfair working conditions or dress up as a clown to talk about women’s rights. We should just be listened to.