In mainstream media, you don’t get to see this side of Feminism. Most people (including some well know female celebrities!) think that being a feminist means putting down males, trying to prove themselves to be better than men. However, that isn’t the case. There are a lot of serious problems that women and girls are facing even in our modern, progressive 21st century society. These problems need to be talked about, they need to be solved, and we’re the ones who are supposed do it; because to see a change, someone has to act, and that’s why Feminism is needed even in the modern society.
We’ve been debating about women’s rights since a couple of decades, but we are as close to actually providing them to women as we are to discovering one-eyed green martians. The Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, back in 1848, is the most well known women’s rights convention. It started with the declaration that men and women were created equal; but fast forward to 2016 and women are still struggling to get the society to accept them as equal.
You must be wondering – what’s the big deal about equality? What is inequality? Inequality means the problems and obstacles that women face when they walk on the same path as men – simply because of their gender. This gender inequality exists everywhere in our society today. Why is it, this society sympathizes a single father – ‘oh what a terrible mother, she’s left her child’ – but ridicules a single mother for being irresponsible? A homeless woman has more difficulties in getting sympathy or support than a homeless male does. Just yesterday, outside of this clinic, a homeless young woman was asking for some help; she got told off, taunted and ignored. The question that needs to be asked here is where does this one sided biased male supremacy come from?
Our society is sexist, from the very top to the very grass root level. Sexism is as common as racism in offices. Companies are barred from specifically mentioning any specific gender on their vacancy announcements unless it is a valid requirement. However, there is a little accountability about which applications are rejected, and for what reason. More often than not, job applications sent by females are rejected, simply because of their gender. Business oriented people consider hiring a female as a liability or potential loss – even if she is highly qualified and possesses all the necessary skills. In an interesting survey it was found that, worldwide, female CEOs make up hardly 3% to 4%.
Women make better leaders than men in business environments as well as in politics. Well-known and authentic researchers such as Forbes and the Business Insider have published many articles about how women are more effective and successful when they are given the chance to perform. Female workers, when asked about their performance, replied: “In order to get the same recognition and rewards (as male colleagues), I need to do twice as much, never make a mistake and constantly demonstrate my competence.” From what I’ve experienced, women make better leaders than men in several cases; where there is a need for taking initiative, creativity, determination, integrity, honesty and in usual male dominated work areas such as legal practice, sales, IT, engineering, research and development. Multi-millionaire CEO of the Container Store, Kip Tindell, asserts that females have an ‘innate skill set’ that ‘‘caters towards communication, empathy and emotional intelligence—the key pillars of conscious capitalism.’’
The number of female workers decreases sharply as you go up the corporate ladder. And even when women get hired, they are paid less than their male counterparts. In managerial positions, we often see women are being treated very unfairly in remuneration for her work. In a socio-psychological experimental survey, responses from business managers and human resource departments indicate that the most common reason they don’t hire women, or pay them less, is because they then require pay maternity leave, which disrupts the workflow. Is that a valid justification? Do women really deserve being paid less simply because they have the ‘natural disadvantage’ of becoming pregnant? The income gap caused by pay discrimination only causes more trouble ,as when a woman earns less, she doesn’t have enough money to feed, educate and support her child on her own. If women got their due pay, there would be fewer dependencies on social welfare and government benefit funds. Moreover, since these welfare trusts are funded through the taxes paid by businesses and individuals, there would be less tax burden on the society if they would just give women their share in the first place!
There has been a great deal of success in the struggle for equality in education. Currently, most major universities have a fairly equal ratio of genders. Some academic fields may have more of one than the other, but generally there are fewer limits and obstacles than before. I personally feel that the assumption of women can’t study technical fields such as aerodynamic engineering or software development still needs to be tackled; there is a stark imbalance between the number of female graduates in natural/life sciences, languages, arts and medicine and the number of female students in finance, technology and engineering.
Mary Wollstonecraft, a prominent educationist, writer and feminist had published ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ in 1791-92, in which she had argued that women need to be, and deserve to be, given equal access to education primarily because it was a woman’s role to raise the new generation. It is important to emphasize here, in the given context about feminism, that she accepted that a woman’s role was to raise the young – she wanted education to be provided to women to help them in fulfilling their role.
I want to point out another perspective: in some African and Asian cultures, it is the unquestionable right of the son to step in as heir. Daughters are not allowed to or expected to work – they just have to get married, give birth and take care of the family. The untapped potential of the daughter is a sorry statement to the gender bias that exists in almost every country. In spite of this very obvious discrimination, universities and higher education institutes bear witness to the intellectual capacity of girls worldwide. In other cultures, women are not deemed capable of learning or working. Their argument remains the same: why should there be more female graduates?
There is a need for more female graduates in order to increase the literacy level among women. An educated woman is an asset to her family, to the society and a game-changer. Female graduates are more likely to be responsible about family size, family finances and quality of life. Man and woman are equal; so if the man is educated, a woman must receive the same education in order for her to be on an equal, competitive footing in all walks of life.
Female education is also crucial for the welfare of community and society, because female leaders make a better society than men. It is a fact that teams with a higher proportion of female members are collectively more intelligent. Women are generally more inclined to find a peaceful solution to an actual problem rather than react defensively. They are also more sympathetic and humanitarian. This quality ensures leadership acumen. In a normal day to day routine, an experience with a male and and a female employee of the same place, at the same time, brought me to this conclusion; generally, women are more supportive, more communicative and more sincere than men in the same position. (Yes, maybe I am talking about Grant Officers… or maybe that waiter from last night.)
Sexual harassments and violence against women are a reflection of our collective failure as a society. I have personally met women who have been sexually harassed at work by their employers; they are not unique cases, or rare cases, or exceptions. Harassment is real, it is happening everywhere, anywhere – to everyone, and anyone. Age, race or position does not guarantee safety. And – it breaks my heart to think about it- but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Women face violence at home, too. Domestic violence, abuse and marital rape – women all over the world are subjected to this torture, and the inadequate laws and punishments don’t help. Girls, as young as 4 years old are raped and forced into marrying their cousins or uncles or strangers, in exchange for money, honor ties and in some countries, as a peace treaty between two families.
I have, like many other concerned citizens, looked up on what protection is there for women in legal policies, and found many loopholes, ambiguities and, in some cases, unfair bias. It would perhaps be a good step to introduce more female lawmakers to the women’s protection policy making process and rape case proceedings, as only a woman can feel what another woman has been through.
FGM vs. Circumcision: Why is this even a debate?
WHO’s fight against Female Genital Mutilation was started around 1997; still, today, there are about 3 million girls at risk in every year, with more than 200 million women and girls over 30 countries have had to endure FGM. It sometimes attributes to culture or religion; in reality, it is a crime and a violation of human rights. In FGM, integral, actual parts of female genitalia are cut off or ‘re-arranged’ with absolutely ZERO health benefits. FGM causes harm – serious, life-threatening harm. Male circumcision, on the other hand, does not. Infact, there are solid evidences that circumcision may actually reduce the risk of HIV in heterosexual men by a huge 60%, cervical cancer in heterosexual women in significant amount, meaning circumcision is beneficial to both the man and his female partner. Beside It is one of the oldest known surgical procedures and done for the purpose of hygiene. FGM is a health risk as well as an infringement of sexual rights of women and girls, while male circumcision does not negatively affect male reproductive health. In fact globally 33% of males aged 15 or over are circumcised.
Various social stigma surrounds women. They are too expressive, too dramatic, too weak, too dumb. Race and colour are used to spread negative stigma even more; ‘white’ and ‘blondes’ are morons, women with red hair are ‘sirens’ and women of colour are ‘infected’. Women who are overweight are seen as as unattractive, sub-human and are the butt of all jokes – such as the ‘yo mama so fat she…’ jokes. They are seriously, honestly not funny atll. on the other hand, In the same society, an overweight male does not have to face the same criticism and ridicule. Similarly, I have talked with women who hide thinning hair and age lines for the sake of the feel of need to be perfect, to be feminine, to be pretty all the time. In a nutshell, there is a social stigma around baldness of women; how many voluntarily bald women have you met? For most young men, it’s a style statement.
The basic, underlying problem of all the above is the attitudes of men towards women. Men should stop viewing women as inferior, as objects and as possessions. Why do men need to be told that this woman is someone’s sister, daughter, wife or mother in order to make them respect her? Is her existence – as a sole entity, an individual being – not enough to warrant respect and attention? The solution to these problems lies within each and every one of us. It is up to us to teach our boys to not discriminate, hate and judge girls and women. It is up to us to ensure that every place is reached by feminism until women are treated better in the society.
It is an unfortunate thing that this still has to be discussed , and there are people who do not understand what women are going through. Why is that women are oppressed by the society without regarding what they are facing? Why do we need to see a partially nude woman in a bathtub in order to pay attention to a soap commercial? Women’s bodies are used to draw attention because we, as viewers, have responded to the media industries that we are willing to see such contents, and thus, we are the ones who have to fight against it, to stop the unnecessary degradation and sexual objectification of women. I will consider buying those sunglasses, that wristwatch, those leather boots and these jeans even without a photoshopped, explicitly posing, half naked female model in it. And I hope you will, too.