Inequality has risen in many countries in recent years, but the trend has not always been upwards. Society wasn’t always like we know it today. For instance, in the Second World War (1939-1945) – in contrast to the First World War – inequality fell widely. And we need to look back even longer in time to understand the meaning of inequality today.
Native American tribes had different concepts of sex and gender. The gender roles were often decided at a young age. For example, if a boy was interested in women’s activities, or vice versa, they were free to undertake that gender variant role in adulthood.
The colonialism erased the traditional non-binary roles of gender orientation and systems of sexuality through creating the idea of the “other”, brutalization, relocation and sexual assault.
The attitudes and expectations surrounding the binary gender roles in today’s society are not based on any inherent or natural gender differences, but on stereotypes. The most common forms of sexism in modern society include gender-role expectations and people’s expectations on how members of a gender group should behave. For example, women are supposed to take care of the household, to be friendly and passive, while men are perceived as strong and gain respect when they behave in an unfriendly or assertive manner.
In modern society, the meaning of the terms “sex” and “gender” are becoming increasingly distinct.
“Sex” refers to the biological differences between males and females in terms of genetic differences. “Gender” is a construct of the society which refers to the role of a male of a female in terms of gender roles, and as an individual’s concept of themselves in terms of gender identity.
In an inequal gender society, women are often excluded and disadvantaged in relation to decision-making processes and their access to economic and social resources.
Gender roles shape the individual’s behaviour and penalise the people that don’t conform to the norms. Transgender, genderqueer, and other gender-nonconforming people face discrimination, oppression and violent assaults for not adhering to society’s traditional gender roles.
People who define themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer are often discriminated for breaking the traditional gender norm which dictates who a person of a given “sex” should be attracted to. Even people who identify as cisgender (with the sex they were assigned at birth) and heterosexual (attracted to the opposite sex) face punishment when they step outside their assigned gender role.
Do you imagine a society free from gender constraints? Equal and free for all the people besides their sexual orientation and assigned gender roles?
In a gender-equal society, both men and women, as equal members, have the opportunity to participate in social activities based on voluntary will. They equally enjoy political, economic and cultural benefits and share responsibilities.
Achieving a gender-equal society depends on the establishment of a social framework that allows individuals to choose various lifestyles regardless of their gender, free from the stereotyped gender roles that assume that nursing and cooking are exclusive women duties while men are the providers, workers, and taxpayers.
Achieving gender equality is the empowerment of women to ensure that decision-making at private and public levels, and access to resources are no longer conditioned by the men so that both women and men can fully participate as equal partners in a productive and fulfilling life.
Inequality is one of our must urgent social problems. In this period of social, economic and political crisis, we need fresh ideas, not only for our societies but also for gender equality. So, what can be done? Where to start? Gandhi said once: „You must be the change you want to see in the world”. So, start by yourself, rethink your own role in gender inequality issues and make the necessary changes in everyday life. Small actions will contribute to improving your own life and gender equality issues and will be the basis for both men and women to develop themselves in a future gender-equal society.
Article written by Irina Melente and Rui Monteiro
Photo – „Bed-In for Gender Equality”, taken in Struga/Macedonia by Nese Sayin