English

A TALE OF TWO STORIES BRIDGING GENDER INEQUALITY

If there was one issue that really broke out in the end of last year It would be called gender inequality. With in that there are many aspects like pay cap, sexism and discrimination etc. But my thoughtgerman-2512008_960_720 was why haven’t we still conquered this problem.

I rest that thought in my head for a moment until I had an argument with a acquaintance of mine about the women and men inequality. The argument started with me pointing out that there should me more equality between men and women in today’s world. To which he firmly applied that you can not compare chicken and a bear. As you can imagine I did not like the comparison at all. After that he gave me another example of how women do less physical labor than men. To which he added a comparison in sports where apparently man are always faster, stronger, better etc. In that point I gave him a good example of  how I probably swim a lot faster than him which he agreed for once. In that point I finally had a moment to explain myself and where my point of view was coming from. Because my idea was not to attack men or say that women and better but to have more equality between us. I gave him an example of  women and  men who work the same amount and give same solutions but men still get paid more. In which he agreed that this is not right but still had to add that we are not equal in this world none of us.  In the end of this talk I just felt that he could not see the problem and he was so sure of himself that there would be no convincing him otherwise.

But I couldn’t see myself being upset with him because the generation where he comes from separated men and women roles in society. I mean even my generation was teached from a young age that there are boy colors and girl colors. So I had my favorite girl color which was yellow and boy color which was green. But in the end of the day it’s not about colors it’s what we teach our younger generation. We shouldn’t say to a young boy not to cry and be a man. We also shouldn’t say to a girl to be more soft and fragile if that’s just not the way she is carries herself. I feel as human beings we should be allowed to express ourselves freely. But even though in most societies we have the freedom of speech and expression if your opinion does not apply to a narrative it’s probably going to be frown on. Believe me there are many people who don’t talk about issues that bother them just because they are afraid of what others think.

That’s what we call social conditioning where a person  responds to things in  a society in a manner which would be generally approved by the society that surrounds them especially family, friends and coworkers. Because thinking the same with a group of people gives you safety and a lot of people like that. Often when you say something that is different of what others believe in you are going to have an argument. But I think having an argument is better than having silence. So I find myself being thankful for the argument I had about the gender inequality with the acquaintance of mine. You can apply this idea of speaking out your through in everything from gender equality to how good was last Spiderman movie. Why I chose to speak about gender inequality was just because it’s a very strong movement right now but it’s been silenced for so long. So we can see the impact that social conditioning has had on society.

In the end I think that people are starting to open up more and speaking out about problems that need solving. So it’s fair to say we might be moving towards more open and equal society. Maybe the steps we are taking look like baby steps but at least there is something moving and changing.

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We are closing in on a year that saw many, dramatic, developments challenging the world’s development. The year 2017 is, certainly, about to go down as part of a wider turning point in recent history. Yet, if there was any issue that gained new impetus in the year that just passed us, it is gender equality. Indeed, January inaugurated the year with Women Marches across the world. December concluded it with tidal waves of sexual harassment allegations, breaking up silence and exposing the scale of systemic sexism in our societies.

Hence, we are opening 2018 with reasonable confidence for the future. Awareness on the issue of gender equality is gaining new grounds. Its salience is slowly, but surely, strengthening. Yet, we should not lower our guard. We still live in a highly unequal society, where one strand of the gender spectrum still holds most of the privileges, while the rest are struggling to get their perspective and rights taken into account. We might hold the truth that we are created equal as self-evident, but we need to remain aware of challenges to overcome. Many people see gender equality as an evidence, but fewer stay true to this evidence in their actions. More worrying so, there remains a wide share of society, men and women alike, that do not even believe in this truth. Naturally, an extensive variety of factors leads to this situation, such as culture, education, societal pressure and so on. However, it would be a mistake to dismiss this problem as an unsurmountable cultural perspective that should be respected. Raising awareness is essential to bring about change. One cannot solve a problem when there is no problem to be recognized in the first place. The thing about raising awareness is that it works.

A friend of mine, who goes by the name of Alex, from Yorkshire in England once told me an engaging story on gender equality. He was volunteering in India for three months in a bid that ranged from promoting social inclusiveness, including gender empowerment, to, later, disaster relief. Alex was living in an apartment with his fellow volunteers, who all happened to be female. They were, one day, cleaning their flat and Alex, naturally, did his share of the chores by sweeping around. Baffled by this arrangement, Sahil*, a local who was staying over to improve his English, took it upon himself to pinch the broom Alex was using to forcefully hand it to one of the girls, proclaiming: “Women job!”. Bewildered by this sudden manifestation of early-20th century gender hierarchy, the girl seized the broom and replied: “You want to learn English ? I’ll teach you a sentence: ‘Gender is a social construct!’. Repeat after me!”. Perhaps not entirely sure what he was saying, Sahil went on to repeat the sentence until he knew it by heart.

Later, at a gathering between locals and international volunteers, the facilitator asked everyone to reflect on what they had recently learned. Sahil took the floor and announced: “Today, I learned that gender is a social construct”. His curiosity somewhat picked by the incident, he went on to undertake some research of his own on the matter. Sahil discovered another outlook on intergender relationship. All he needed was a trigger to compel a reaction from his part. That trigger offered exposed him to a new perspective. One that he quickly embraced. Sahil decided to get more involved with the work of the volunteers. Not merely to improve his English skills, but mainly to promote another point of view of gender equality in his community. He went on to become one of the most active and involved local volunteer in raising awareness on gender equality.

It only took one sentence. One sentence to affect an entire community in the long run. Imagine the potential of one lecture, one workshop or a whole campaign. Challenges are always ahead, of course. 2017 started with the Women’s March, but it also started with a leap backward for gender equality. It ended with an overall freeing of women’s voices, but it also showed the gargantuan width of systemic sexism. The road is long and will be winding. But there is a road.

Ann Aro & Antoine Lomba

 

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