Recently, I was talking to a Tinder match here in northern Spain, with whom I was getting on swimmingly, until the topic turned to gender. Turned out he didn’t believe gender inequality existed. In fact, he suggested that it was a female fantasy, as well as being a female excuse. “It is up to you to pay attention or not” to the way women are portrayed in the media, or the way we are treated on the streets, he said, because, you know, “not everybody can handle things in the same way.” “We have probably lived through two very different circumstances,” he told me, not realising that there was a distinct possibility that those circumstances were inherently related to what was sitting in our pants. “My point is that [it] depends on how much self-suffering you want to [inflict upon] yourself,” he told me, when I said that wasn’t it possible he wasn’t really qualified to tell me what it felt like to grow up as a woman in a patriarchal society, where my body image, my period, my career prospects, my sexuality, my opportunities, were skewed by society’s interpretation of and meddling in my gender? Obviously it’s my fault for being sensitive about it (bloody hormones!). “If you spend time thinking how unfair this society is [to] women, you would be amplifying the harmful side of it, and living under a continuous attack that doesn’t really exist.”
So there you have it, gender inequality DOESN’T REALLY EXIST. Put it in a box with Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny! Ironically, he then said, “you are as permeable to the [idea of gender inequality] as you want to be.” YES, SIR, YES YOU ARE.
I was really mad. “Haha I touched a nerve I see,” he said. That’s right, laugh it off! A woman getting angry about women’s issues! It’s the oldest joke in the book! What an uptight bitch! What a feminazi! She’s probably on her period! She probably just needs a good seeing to!
For this week’s #AskTheAudience, we asked several women: “What do you think are the most pressing issues blocking gender equality?” Based on recent experience, I would have to say the denial of the existence of a problem is up there with one of the most pressing issues. Luckily the majority of people I surround myself with (male or female) are a lot more self-aware than the Tinder jerk above. Read what our interviewees have to say below:
“C”, 31, Hertfordshire
I don’t think there will ever be ultimate equality as we are trained from a young age to fall into the categories of women and men… Women play with dolls acting the mother figure, the cook, the passive princess, whereas boys go play sport. Media doesn’t help with how women are portrayed and even in work situations there is still the taboo over women getting pregnant and how badly they can be treated… Growing a human shouldn’t be seen as an inconvenience… If women were treated properly at work they would be more willing to return but almost feel forced out.
“Hannah”, 32, Solicitor, Hertfordshire
People’s views that woman are either career woman or stay at home mothers. It seems you cannot be both or be financially rewarded for being successful. If a woman is successful then people make such a huge deal about it and justify that being why she is being paid x pounds and why others shouldn’t be paid that, when 75% of the men doing the same job get paid what she does (or more) without question.
“Shabana”, 19, Law Student, Norfolk
The taboo surrounding the word ‘feminist’ is a huge obstacle, mostly as it stops many men and women from taking the issue of gender inequality on board. Despite this difficulty I think it is more important to clarify the reasons for the name rather than attempting to change it –pandering to the uninformed won’t aid progress.
Meera, 24, Project Co-ordinator in Community Development with a housing association, Banbury
Education and girls’ and women’s perception of their self-worth and abilities. I was shocked to hear recently that a very high percentage of teenage girls (a majority) in the UK think it’s normal to be treated badly by a boy. How can this be the case in an era of equal educational opportunities? The change, to effect self-belief and self-worth, needs to be instilled from a young age.
Hazel, Family Lawyer, Surrey
Equal representation on all elected bodies, boards of large companies etc. Use quotas, just do it.
Nissmah, 22, Architecture Student, United Arab Emirates
One of the issues would be the media but I also think the way kids are brought up at home is what’s blocking gender equality. Often the girls of the house are given the duties of doing the household chores while the guys don’t equally share the responsibility. Yes, to some extent I do believe as women we are supposed to take care of the household but that doesn’t mean the men don’t learn to take responsibility of these duties as well. To grow up into real gentlemen they need to be able to share these responsibilities with their wives and set good examples for their children. It’s a cycle really, as adults we must teach our kids how to behave so they grow up knowing what’s just and what’s not.
Nisha, 24, Litigation Executive, London
I find it unbelievable that in this day and age we still see gender inequality in every aspect of our lives. I think the most pressing issue blocking gender equality is what we teach our children. And not only what we say to them verbally but what we show them as well. I believe that all prejudice is borne from experience. No child is born believing that one skin colour is better than the other or that being a woman makes you inferior to men. It’s about what we put out there into the universe, both men and women. We need to make the importance of loving people of all sexes, sizes, orientations and faiths a priority in our own lives and lead by example. Women are guilty of belittling other women too. Appreciate the career women for their resilience and persistence and respect the stay-at-home mums for their strength and patience. Lift other women up instead of constantly searching for ways to tear each other down. And celebrate the success of others instead of letting jealousy dictate the way you live your life.
Blanca, 57, Teacher, Santander (Spain)
Equal salaries for equal jobs, sharing the housework and care of children, same opportunities in education and in getting a high position at work.
“F.A.”, 23, Medical Student, London
Certain cultural beliefs about inflexible roles that ‘must’ be adopted by women and men respectively. For example, the sort of people who shudder at the notion of their daughter’s spouse being a house-husband, or believe that all women’s primary duty is to rear children and ‘have a hot meal ready for me at the end of the day’. This means that the whole concept of feminism is a taboo in certain cultures, sadly ones in which women are often discriminated against.
Also, the rise of anti-feminism – it’s strange that we’ve come full circle and after so many decades of brave women fighting for women’s rights, women are proudly identifying themselves as non-feminists and think of feminists as ‘feminazis’. It undermines the current issues that women still face today – for example, the wage gap and sexual violence.
What are your thoughts? What is blocking gender equality for you, for women in your country, and for women across the world?
Tune in next week for the next instalment of Ask the Audience!
Until next time,