Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Equality Illusion

Two things set me thinking in more than a 'constantly-there-background-noise' kind of way about the illusion of equality.

Firstly, my daughter-in-law is reading Kat Banyard's book, 'The Equality Illusion'. This is a very readable book, but comes up with some interesting points that the reader may not have thought of.

When I spoke to Sue on Sunday, she mentioned the point that Banyard makes about how young children's clothes differ according to gender. Not only do the colourways scream gender difference, but even at the age of five, boys are being introduced to the corporate world through the use of logos on their clothing, whilst girls are kept firmly out of it by the lack of them.

Secondly, my friend M's son-in-law or outlaw or whatever, remarked to her that women and men have equality. Which seemed too dim to even comment on to some extent, and was probably said as a wind-up, and yet, does make one re-visit.

Equality, by it's very nature, is dependent on difference. Well, by definition really. 'Four equals four' is not a statement about equality, it's a statement about sameness. Four is the same as four. 'Two plus two equals four' is a statement about equality because an element of difference has been introduced.
Why do I mention this?
Because at a very basic level of misunderstanding, people will say, 'but women and men are different!' Yes indeedy, that's the point, they are different, but they should be equal.
They should have equality.

If you, for example, believe in God, you would have to believe that women and men are equal in the sight of God, but this does not mean they have Equality.

And one could point to all the indicators that women and men do not have equality, the Gender Pay Gap, the lack of females in political leadership, the paucity of acting roles for women on TV and in film, the existence of violence and sexual violence against women, the lower value given to anything female, I avoid the use of the word feminine, and the casual sexism that is not in fact inherent in the English language, but which is imported by those who may or may not even think about their words.

But underlying this inequality, is the notion of opportunity. Another frequently whined out mantra is, 'well there's nothing stopping women doing/achieving x, y, z, but they just don't want to.'
This, currently, is a load of old botox.

For example, just one example, for a woman to enter politics, she needs to have equal support at home over childcare and housework and she needs to have the same level of emotional support that a man in a similar position would have. She also needs to not encounter sexism in the political campaigning, such as that endured by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and she needs to not encounter sexism in her workplace, such as that suffered by our own Provincial politicians. And, that needs to be true for all women, so that every woman has the exact level of opportunity as a man, to make her bid.

But more than that, she needs to not have been brought up in a society that undervalued everything female, that imposed upon her the notion of 'femininity' and made her feel that she must conform to it or be less. And oh dear, the social construct of femininity, includes being soft and submissive. Damn, Catch 22 already in the game.
OR...she can go for the 'be like a man' option, which ensures that she may be one woman who makes it in, but thereafter, opportunity for women withers on the vine because.....she will undermine other women and a female way of going about things.

And then there's the confusion that goes back aways, that she has been brought up in a society that has laboured the point that the 'female way of going about things' is to whine and manipulate to get her own way, because of....Stockholm Syndrome, or Wartime Occupation syndrome, where the person in the dependent position has to survive by playing the role the kidnapper/occupying force wants them to and then subsequently comes to be emotionally attached to the dominant party.

The French Resistance, for example, were a courageous bunch of people in appalling circumstances, but not everyone can sacrifice their all to resist, because they were resisting on behalf of their people. The people had to find some way of enduring the occupation, and those who didn't, en masse, were frequently annihilated.

So, in years to come, and were lightyears not a measurement of distance, but of time, it might be those away, we may still have a Gender Pay Gap, we may still have fewer women in authority, but if we have equality of opportunity, then those will be because of true choices that women make, because they will not have been brainwashed at an early age to accept the lesser role, and they will not be disproportionately the victims of rape, enforced (even by economic factors) prostitution and trafficking, and they will not be marginalised and objectified through pornography, and when those things do happen, they will be taken seriously by society, and the perpetrators, not the victims, will be seen as deviants.

Wow, that was such a long sentence, it should probably have a German verb at the end.

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