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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women grappling with the accusation of inequality and, instead of reflecting on that problem, seeking to blame or ridicule the voices pointing it out. Flailing wildly against feminism for vocally pointing out sexual violence and gender inequality is a last-gasp attempt to retain a privilege that is being threatened. And these ridiculous arguments only start to come out when that privilege begins to be eroded – in other words, this backlash is a sign that things are changing.” I’m not saying that women’s rights groups are innocent in taking similarly defensive stances – far from it. It’s a problem that comes with subscribing to any set of ideals. But here’s the thing: we live in a society that was designed to put men first. Whether or not a person is wilfully sexist, they were still born into a society where one gender – or race or social class – is held in greater regard. We have all been influenced by the structure into which we were born and, while this is gradually changing, things are by no means equal. Globally, women “hold top political offices, lead major companies, wield considerable economic power as entrepreneurs and consumers, and are even, as a group, better educated than their male peers,” reads A Wake-Up Call for Female Leadership in Europe, a study by McKinsey and Company. “Yet in most European countries, women are employed at rates far lower than men are. They are also underrepresented in positions of leadership: women continue to be conspicuously absent in Europe’s parliaments and board rooms.” Journalist and radio talk show host Rebecca Juro told The Huffington Post that she knew her transition from male to female was finally visible when men began looking down on her. “I used to say that the way I know I’m being accepted as a woman is when the average men’s estimation of my intelligence drops by 50 per cent,” said Juro. “When I was living as male, I didn’t have a problem with acceptance. I didn’t have a problem being respected on the job or any of those kinds of things. And then when I transitioned, I lost what people call ‘male privilege’, which is a certain level of acceptance and respect you get just because you are a male.” Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating – no pain, no emotions, definitely no fear She said that when she worked in retail, pre-transition, her authority was rarely questioned. “I would go in and say, ‘Okay, here’s how we’re gonna do this’, and there was never a question. There was never a problem,” she says. “When I started working as a woman a few years later people were like, ‘Well, wait a minute – what about this and what about that?’” I once heard someone explain it like this: imagine a city where the roads are built to accommodate cars. Now, there are cars and bicycles using these roads, but, because the infrastructure was built around cars’ needs, it is significantly harder for cycles to get around. Narrowing the roads by painting in cycle paths is the quick and easy solution because it doesn’t require much of an alteration to the existing system – which is still based around the car – but what is needed is a complete restructuring of the infrastructure so that both groups are accommodated for based upon their own needs. Well-known American feminist, ethicist and psychologist Carol Gilligan described the problem of how we raise girls and boys in an interview with Feminism.com: “Patriarchy is used now as sort of a code word to mean men’s oppression of women – it’s not! It’s a system, a hierarchy where hieros means priest and where the priest (the hieros) is a father (pater). It’s an order of living where a father, or some fathers control access to truth, or salvation, or knowledge,” says Gilligan. “And it affects men as well as women. “My research shows it affects men at a much earlier age – the pressure on little boys to internalise a patriarchal voice occurs around five. And the pressure – the shaming of boys – ‘you’re gay, you’re a girl, you’re a mama’s boy’ – it’s almost like a strategy of the patriarchy to characterise it as though men are the victors and women are the losers. It’s a system of oppression that cuts off everyone from parts of themselves. It makes a line between men and women, and between men and boys, between men and children, between some men and other men.” In order to change the way that we treat one another, we must first become aware of who we are. There is a big problem with just labelling oneself as a something-ist, because once this happens the something ism becomes part of one’s identity. As a result, any discussion of the values involved in the concept can be perceived as a personal affront, an attack on who that person is. Immediately there is a personal and collective expectation that, as a member of a group, you represent the values of that group. Instead of continuing to exist as a person with millions of indi- 30% of women in the UK have experienced domestic abuse 16% of men in the UK have experienced domestic abuse 18% of seats in parliament are held by women, USA 31% of legislators, senior officials and managers are women, Germany In most countries, irrespective of income, women do twice as much housework as men More than 700 million women alive today were married before the age of 18, more than 250 million were married by 15 Women to men ratio, wage for similar work done (2014) 0.76:1 Finland 0.72:1 Belgium and Canada 0.69:1 UK 0.68:1 Russia 0.66:1 USA 0.63:1 Germany 0.52:1 Austria 0.50:1 France For more information, see the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2014 on page 7 24 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global


Global issue 20
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