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What does gender equality look like in 2019?
March 8th is International Women’s Day, this year bringing with it yet another theme for the year: think equal, build smart, innovate for change. As you can guess from the theme, this year is about considering equality and using technology and innovation to make the world a better place for women, especially when it comes to access to public services, social protection systems and sustainable infrastructure. Yet, it is 2019 and we are nowhere near achieving gender equality. In December 2018, the Global Gender Gap Report concluded that there is still about a 32% global gender gap to close. This report considers four factors: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment, and we still need to work hard to achieve equality in these areas within a westernized society.
It is great to have a global report about gender inequality for those who do not believe it still exists (yes folks- many people still don’t believe it). Gender inequality is still so prevalent that we can see it all around us, we really don’t have to look that hard. One of the most recent examples is the Gillette advertisement discussing toxic masculinity and inviting men to rethink their actions in regards to supporting women. This ad (whilst quite heteronormative) highlighted the need for gender equality, yet many men who watched the advert protested against it through online social media campaigns. For example, Piers Morgan, an English journalist and television presenter of Britain’s Got Talent Show, tweeted:
“I've used @Gillette razors my entire adult life but this absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”
Another great example can be seen in the recent Nike ad in which Serena Williams highlights women’s leadership and badass-ness has been labelled as ‘craziness’, and she asks women to embrace their ‘craziness’ and show people around them what they are capable of. Serena Williams who is a record breaker, African-American tennis player, has personally faced many challenges in her career due to racial discrimination. In one of her matches she was fined $17,000 (£13,000) for opposing the umpire’s judgement. The Women’s Tennis Association later labelled her punishment as ‘sexist’, which also brought out the racial stereotypes of the ‘angry black woman’. Both of these adverts along with other campaigns such as the #MeToo movement, highlight that our progress towards achieving gender equality is very slow. It seems that the progress of closing the gender equality gap is so slow that every little achievement towards equality makes us excited when really, we should be examining the root causes of why gender inequality still exists.
The question then becomes, what can we do to speed up the process and achieve gender equality around us in the western society that we live in? To begin, as the theme for this year suggests, it is a great idea to take a look at ourselves and ask whether our actions and thoughts are sexist and discriminatory, think about our privileges and the fact that many people around us do not have the same opportunities. Participate in events that are informative and educational to learn about how to help achieve gender equality in your society. It is also crucial to remember that International Women’s Day is not just about cisgender women or white women. International Women’s Day is for all self-identified women including Trans, queer, non-binary and intersex women, so when trying to make the world a better place for women, don’t just try to make it better for cis women otherwise inequality is simply reproduced.
Most importantly, be mindful about the different experiences of people around us and keep in mind the cultural differences that can work as additional barriers for racialized and marginalized groups. It is also crucial to remember that Indigenous women face high rates of discrimination and violence in Canada and yet their voices are often erased in the fight for equality. 60% of women with disabilities face some form of form of violence in their lives and are often othered within society.
Lastly, you can help achieve gender equality by being an active bystander. When you hear someone make a sexist comment or joke, don’t stay quiet if you can. If your friends objectify women and use vulgar language, don’t just sit quiet or even worse join them to avoid the conversation of explaining to them why what they’re doing is wrong. You can update your knowledge about women’s issues, LGBTQA+ issues, racial issues, etc. If you are capable, do something to help even if it is as small as donating to an organization with the aim of reducing gender inequality. Hopefully, when the next International Women’s Day arrives, UN Women will publish a report that there is some progress, and hopefully if everyone contributes to a community of respect and care, we can see real change in future generations. Happy International Women’s Day to all of the amazing women, femmes and non-binary folks at SFU striving to make this campus a more equitable and safer community.
About the Author: My name is Delaram Hoorfar. I am a fourth year Gender, Sexuality and Women Studies major and Political Science Minor. I am very passionate about gender equality as I have faced discrimination all my life, being a Persian woman. My ultimate goal is to build a support system in the Middle-East, for people who have faced any kind of sexual violence as the challenges Middle-Eastern women face are different than the rest of the world.