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The other day, Earn Spend Live’s other co-founder, Meleah, rocked her “The Future is Female” tee. As someone who 1) knows Meleah and 2) knows the meaning and origin of this famous saying, I didn’t even bat an eye. I said “love it” and went about my business. But she later told me that at one point during the day, a woman took her to the side, hugged her, and told her that “with love,” she wanted to let her know that her shirt could be offensive. “What if little boys saw it? What if my 26-year-old son saw it?”
Meleah insisted that the interaction was overall a pleasant one — the woman was nice, Meleah politely told her that little boys had 45 presidents and a million superheroes to look up to so they’d be fine, and that was that. But no matter how “nice” this interaction was, it just didn’t sit well with me. And once I did a little reading on the internet, I discovered this is actually a fairly common reaction, especially for women with sons. The writer in an article for National Review asks you to “imagine, if you will, an audience of little boys — let’s pretend they’re second- and third-graders — forced to sit in an auditorium and listen to Hillary Clinton’s short speech. They swing their legs.They fidget a bit. ‘The future is female,’ Clinton declares, beamed in on a giant screen. What are they supposed to think, other than that girls matter more than they do?”
To which, I ask this writer, the woman who pulled Meleah aside, and any other women who think this way: How the hell do you think little girls have felt being “forced” to see only men in important positions to speak on important topics the way Hillary Clinton is now? (And news flash, she lost — so a man still holds the most important position possible in our country.) Without ever having to say that “the future is male,” we’ve always known it instinctively. But I’ll get to that in just a second.
I only recently became a feminist. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment — it’s not like you get sprinkled with holy water or you get a free t-shirt — but I’d say it happened while we were creating Earn Spend Live. I had a super privileged upbringing (white, middle class, the works) and amazing parents; I was never made to feel like I was less than men. Plus, I only had a sister, so unlike most of my friends, I was never compared to my brother or told to do the dishes while he mowed the yard. I watched Sailor Moon religiously and regularly ran around telling everyone about my dreams to become a writer, a director, a famous movie star — and was never once told about the women-to-men ratio in the first two occupations (women make up just 7% of directors in Hollywood, while authors like J.K. Rowling and E.L. James had to make their names gender neutral just to sell books), as well as the glaring gender pay gap in the latter.
But after becoming attached at the hip to Meleah (a proud feminist with blue, sometimes green, sometimes purple hair and t-shirts that say things like “The Future is Female” and “I <3 the Female Orgasm), entering the “real world,” and hearing the stories of older, more experienced female professionals via Earn Spend Live, I realized that I had actually been a feminist in the truest sense of the word my whole life; I just had never been taught the meaning of the word and I had no idea the struggles other women faced.
I also had no idea that even though I didn’t realize it, there were all kinds of ridiculous — sexist, if you will — expectations placed on me by society my entire life (I was shamed for wearing a tank top to school in Kindergarten, I lost so much weight at one point that my friends listened by the door when I went to the bathroom to make sure I wasn’t throwing up, I get pitiful looks at my naked ring finger when I tell people I’ve been in a relationship for seven years — you know the drill); hindsight is 20/20.
I now know what my calling, my passion in life, whatever you want to call it is: I want to empower women, of all experiences, backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, beliefs — all women. I want to teach little girls to respect themselves and demand respect from the rest of the world, and teach little boys that we deserve it. I want little boys to watch Sailor Moon and Wonder Woman and root for female heroines instead of calling them “girls’ shows.” Because how many women refuse to watch The Avengers, Forrest Gump, James Bond, or literally any movie with male leads because they’re just “too manly?”
So when we say “the future is female,” we are not saying the future is female-exclusive. We are not saying we are better. We are not saying we hate men. We are not purposely trying to offend anyone’s fragile masculinity.
We are saying that men have been the past, the present, and will be the future — and seeing as we make up more than 50% of our population, we just want a little slice of the pie. Actually, f*ck that — we want half of the damn pie. Because we’ve had 45 male presidents and 0 female. We’ve had three different actors playing Spider-Man and six Spider-Man films in the past 20 years, eight actors portraying Batman and at least 12 Batman films since pretty much the beginning of time, tons of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America movies, etc. etc. etc. And one female superhero movie (Catwoman and Elektra don’t count and you know it): Wonder Woman. Really think about it: Have you ever seen a list of “The Best Movies With Male Leads?” (I found one on Jezebel, and it’s satirical, so don’t even bother.) Probably not. But how many lists are out there for movies with female leads? Google it, I dare you.
Not to mention that currently, in 2017, women make up just 19.6% of Congress and 19.3% of the House of Representatives. Again, I will repeat: Women make up more than half of the population. So why is it so “controversial” that we want to share half the decision-making power?
So when you wear your “The Future is Female” t-shirt and a little boy (or heaven forbid a grown man) asks you what your shirt means (because honestly, that’s all I can see a little boy saying about a t-shirt), this is the perfect teaching opportunity. Simply tell them this: It means that one day women will be so busy being in the White House, saving the world, or having a seat at the table, that we won’t have to wear such silly t-shirts. And someday, no one will think to ask what it means.