THE PATTERN OF GENDER INEQUALITY IN SOCIETY
WRITTEN BY SUANNE LA ROSE
Everyone is affected by gender inequality; women, men, trans, and gender diverse people, families, and children.
It would be narrow-minded of many us to assume that this is just a male and female problem. Yes, the perception in the past was that generally, only women were the ones ‘benefiting’ from an equal society – most likely thanks to the media who reported on this, but thank goodness for the trailblazers who made more noise than the media to grab our attention that gender equality is more than that, whether you are a man, a woman, a transgender, or gender fluid! It is necessary that everyone knows that gender equality affects all parties.
I chatted with Leah and Karin, our resident Contributors, who are both incredibly passionate about gender equality and although the conversation had ‘women’ playing the main character, the pattern of inequality rings true for all affected by gender inequality.
Most talk about gender equality tends to be about income, i.e equal pay to our male counterparts. Admittedly, this theme has been a long uphill battle, which hasn’t really been resolved but is much better than what it was many moons ago, in fact, the late and great actor, Chadwick Boseman donated part of his salary to his 21-Bridges co-star Sienna Miller (note: ‘donated’, I’m assuming because he had to manage it tax-wise in order for that amount not to be taken from her yet again). This was a giant leap in the ‘right’ direction in the entertainment industry where equal payment is blatantly unfair.
THE PATTERN OF INEQUALITY.
Whether the strife is for income, violence, discrimination, genital mutilation, child marriages, equal rights or the right to decide over one’s OWN body, there is a pattern within fighting for gender equality that has created many positives, albeit not solving the ACTUAL goals.
What might this be you ask?
Simply coming out of any of these goals stronger and wiser, one could even go as far as to say ‘better than before’.
Whenever genders need to ‘fight’ for their equality, they create a pattern of discovering a capacity and potential that would not have been seen before, had they just been ‘given’ equality.
Karin: An example of how limitations can progress a society but not ‘solve’ the actual problem. Take a look at the story of “I am Sacagawea” by Brad Meltzer. This story is about a 12-year old Native American Indian girl, who was captured and then sold to a French-Canadian fur trader and became his wife at the age of 12. Her story is a remarkable one, stories don’t say she led the first expedition to explore the unknown west of America, but her role was so incredibly important. She knew the language; (if she was alive today, she would have a Translator, Mediator, tracker, guide, chef, and much more on her C.V.) she knew the area and was able to guide them out of trouble. She was a true asset to this expedition. Today she is a symbol of pride and female strength, she was a trailblazer from 1778. There are so many of these stories, that have been forgotten over time.
She was a pioneer, a visionary, capable of so much, and yet MARRIED AT 12- YEARS-OLD!
Marrying at 12 years-old is a no-no and this is definitely a gender equality right that HAS to be fought for! And yet, at the same time, when you see just how much capacity comes out of the strife for SOME (not all) genders, one cannot help but think of others who are currently IN the gender inequality are also discovering their capacity and potential within their gender inequality.
Karin: Coming back to women and gender inequality on income – The result of women having to ‘workaround’ the income inequality by working harder, is a high-level of multi-tasking: Building bigger and more efficient networks, becoming stringent project managers and Masters of time management. It is exhausting but just goes to show how much potential and capacity is within us. But at what sacrifice?
PIONEERS LEADING THE WAY.
On the topic of income equality (predominantly in women), Leah pointed out that Scandinavian countries have led the way when it comes to gender equality. And it’s true, once researching this, I found that Sweden and Denmark are consistently leading the way in the European Union (EU) in gender equality (amongst other things).
You would think that with a system that is WORKING in different countries and cultures, that something similar could be integrated into other countries, sadly this isn’t the case.
Is it because the rules are still being run by those that find that women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant and not in competition with their counterparts?
I shrug my shoulders and throw my hands up in the air!
Another country leading the way is the Netherlands or as Karin refers to the biggest ‘part-time country’, which Karin has recently moved from.
(Here is some information from the OECD Better Life Index, according to the OECD Better Life Index) >> “The Netherlands ranks top in work-life balance and above the average in jobs and earnings, housing, education and skills, subjective well-being, social connections, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and health status. It ranks below the average in income and wealth.”
In 2019 in the Netherlands it is shown that just less than half of the 9 million +- people work part-time hours.
How wonderful does that sound?
Traditionally it was the men going out to work, women were to stay at home and only work part-time if needed, this has drastically changed. Women want to have a say, they want to make an impact in the workplace and their family lives, women want to not get married because this is what society dictates is best for them. So, women are now working 3 days instead of 5, the question we had is “are they less stressed out?”
Karin: Are the Dutch women less overwhelmed?
The obvious answer is NO. They are just as overwhelmed. There are still 5 days of work to get done in 3 days, and there are days spent trying to give our children undivided attention, get the groceries done, etc. It is not like we work for three days and then have a 2-day holiday doing nothing. There are challenges for all of us women whether we are married, single, and ready to mingle, divorced, Asian, Transgender, Native Indian, Black, or White.
Karin: “As women, we have this amazing and beautiful capacity to juggle, I am in no way saying that men do not have this, but it is strong and more natural in women. And for an entrepreneur (as Karin is – regardless of gender) time is money, there is a constant drive to hustle because you’re hustling for yourself – and if you don’t get the job done you won’t get paid. And although you can set your own pricing as an entrepreneur – it’s not the income that’s the problem but the struggle to juggle everything else surrounding being not only an entrepreneur but a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and so forth”.
According to an article from March 2020 by the Daily Business News, “women are more likely to sacrifice time for themselves and their social lives for their businesses, whereas men are more likely to sacrifice time with their spouse and time with their children. Data captured showed results that the sacrifices female entrepreneurs make are significantly different from those of their male counterparts.”
Karin: “So, you are damn right we want to be paid the same as men, we do the same and we sacrifice more”!
I wanted to look into gender equality in other countries for myself.
I took a look at the Canadians too out-of-interest, what I found was that all Canadian parents have 40 weeks of parental leave; let me please repeat that in case you didn’t quite get that – ALL parents! Only 84% of fathers exercise this policy (compared to only 11% of fathers in the rest of Canada).
Does this blow your mind?
Whilst just across the border, women don’t even get paid maternity rights. More power to the Canadians! What the hell America, get with the times!
In India, the father is entitled to two weeks of paid leave when their child is born, as well as an additional 14 weeks of paid leave to use before the child turns three.
All I can say is WOW, WOW, and WOW again.
Just being valued as a parent irrespective of gender, boosts the trust, morale and respect for any employee.
Do you see that gender equality is valued where you currently work?
Do you feel like you matter, no matter your race, culture, or sexuality?
Do you feel as if your workplace favours black people or prefer straight white men?
Your boss will not always understand why you need to take leave (again) because your child is sick, and he or she might wonder how your problem has become their problem.
I would like to believe that no matter what your sex or race or culture is, we are humans above it all and would like to think that we were born with human decency, compassion and empathy.
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Let's change our education.
On the one hand, fighting for gender equality creates patterns to find loopholes and expand on our capacity and potential, however, on the other hand, it is exhausting for all genders exposed to the fight having to always ‘find solutions and loopholes’ and still not have the actual goals reached.
How can we as a society change this, besides what is already being done?
Let’s focus on changing how we are raising the next generation, on the content that is being consumed, on the family constellations and media outputs.
Let’s improve it, let’s build on the good and relook what is not working. There are, for example, a number of growing schools around the world with a learning system that encourages self-direction education (google it, it’s very interesting, and it might not be what you believe or what you are used to, but there is value). At these self-direction education school’s children feel as if they belong, they will feel heard and that they can make a difference. What does this help? It reduces the desire to have to be someone or something for someone else. It takes away the social pressure to have to do things to make others happy before yourself. And it lends the youth tools to deal with their inner questions that need answers without having to rely on ‘old methods’ that are outdated and not helping society.
As social beings, we should thrive in this kind of community, a community that builds up our confidence, one that brings forth the best version of ourselves!
Before your child learns to read, they might very well learn how to better interact with their peers and elders, children will learn about gender equality and social justice, and communication.
A wise person once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men“, (and women or however you chose to be identified)!
Karin: We need to start educating more the mindset of the women. There is so little knowledge of how women are, and how much value women bring to the table when they are honoured and respected and seen. We might not be there to smoke the cigar after work because we have to go and take care of the kids, we aren’t building those connections that they are building, and that doesn’t matter, we are building and investing in the future.
Leah: YES, I love that! Make a t-shirt or something from that: “We are not smoking the cigars and making those connections, we are going home and building the future.” Women are always excluded because you always have to be there, and we can’t always do that. We don’t have the same luxury that men do or in fact want. The education on and for women and what they go through and their mindset and how things work is really important.
We need to be aware of the pattern during the gender equality ‘fight’.
You may not feel like gender inequality is your fight or your struggle, you might have a comfy job and a supportive husband. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. For many, the inequalities are monumental and defining. Take a moment and see how inequalities affect those around, be a support system to someone, help them overcome the hurdles, encourage those around you to shine! It might very well not happen in your lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be instrumental in doing your part.
I leave you with this from our Contritubors,
Both Leah and Karin are very hopeful for the future, even during this COVID time, we’ve seen the inefficiencies and now we can build towards doing better! Yes, gender equality is far from being corrected, but we are so much farther than our parents where and for that, we should be proud and inspired.