One of the fundamental issues the Journey to Change committee have looked into is gender equality. Their work and research on the matter has provoked me to also look into it and express my view with regard to the issue. The following views and opinions are my own and may not represent those of Selkirk High School or any affiliated organisation or body.
One of the most important eras in the history of politics was marked with the rise of the suffragette movement; a brave group of women that stood at the feet of their oppressors and brought them down to size. They fought long and hard for what they believed in and eventually, after the shedding of blood, sweat and tears, they were given the vote. Many years on we are still seeing gender inequality towards both men and women. Why in our modern developed society do we still have to deal with such inequalities?
We often concentrate on the inequalities suffered by women in the UK, however, this is not the only gender inequality we see here. It may not be as obvious and vast in number but male gender inequality does exist. You may never have thought about it but that does not forgo its existence. How often have you thought about Sirius A and B? Presumably you don’t think about them an awful lot but they do exist. In fact they are rather important, as Sirius A is the brightest star in Earth’s night sky, just as male inequality is an important issue. One of the major issues that is connected with gender inequality towards males is ancient conceptions of what it is to be male. Females, in their movement towards their rightful equal ground, are trying to overcome the misconceptions of what it is to be a woman. However, few people take into consideration the misconceptions with regard to what it is to be male. Males are put under a lot of pressure to be big, ruff, buff and ‘manly’. But what really is ‘manly’? Is it the primitive idea of the hunter-gatherer who protected his tribe, hunted their food and impregnated all their females? If so, it most definitely shouldn’t be. This pressure is a form of oppression and it does affect people severely. Before we start jumping up and down and crying for female equality we must look at the other side of the gender divide and ask for equality there too. No-one should be oppressed in the name of equality, for it is no longer equality if one overpowers the other. Gender equality is, as its name suggests, equality for both genders.
The thirteen minutes it would take you to watch Emma Watson’s UN HeForShe speech would be one of the most well spent thirteen minutes of your life. She not only addresses the fact that the world is plagued with gender inequality but also the fact that this is something that affects both genders. She describes how gender stereotypes chain us to an unequal and unfair life and how, without the escapement of gender stereotypes, equality will struggle to ever become a reality.
Some would suggest that, as a male, I should not be intervening with gender equality. They may suggest that it should be for women and those who understand oppression but what is there to suggest that I do not understand oppression and inequality. What is there to suggest that this is not everyone’s fight to participate in? Absolutely nothing. We must all act if anything is to be done. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke on the matter stating “Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of both women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.” I am a self-confessed ‘skinny-malinky-longlegs’ and have never felt that I have needed to build some muscle or have to avoid conveying any sort of sentimental emotion. However, I can understand that there will be people out there who believe they have to follow the strict prescribed lies of a stereotype. The way in which I have experienced inequality is as a spectator. As a male, when looking among your group of peers you may feel compelled to find the big tough guy as your role model. I have never done this. I have always looked the other direction to the females who trod upon their gender’s stereotypes; stand up for who they are and create the future they want to live. Being more than society thinks of you is simply incredible and inspiring. And it’s not just female, it’s the males who also break down the walls of gender and free themselves from the vile confinements of prehistoric ideals. Charlotte Brontë – one of the most influential authors of all time – said in her novel Jane Eyre:
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
Prior to writing this article I created a survey asking questions with regard to gender equality. In my ‘females are the oppressed ones’ state of mind, I concentrated many of the questions on this aspect of gender inequality. However, two commenters mentioned the fact that this issue does extend to males also. This opened my eyes to what the real, larger problem was. It revealed to me the extent of the issue. Almost everyone is treated unequally, no-one is free from its tyrannous wrath. In this survey, which 16 people† partook in, 50% of participants said that there was not really enough being done to prevent gender equality. Only 26.7% believed that females were given the same opportunities as men here in the UK and only 6.3% believed that females were fairly represented in the Westminster Government, with the majority (43.8%) claiming that females were not very well represented. These are all major, major issues that must be stressed upon.
Females have suffered for far too long the confinements of their gender’s stereotypes. The classic housewife; stooped over her cooker, juggling dishes in one hand and children in the other. This image of women is simply ridiculous. How has this awful idea managed to live on to this day? Goodness knows, but one thing that is most definitely certain is that it must be overcome.
The idea that women should ever be treated differently from men is simply absurd to me but it is reality for far too many. The Law Society of Scotland found that there was a 42% pay gap between its male and female members across the board. This is simply ridiculous and utterly appalling. They also stated that the overall pay gap in the UK in November of 2014 was sitting at 9.4%. Why should a female be paid any less because, at the most basic yet fundamental level, they have different reproductive organs from a man? Why should that ever stop anyone? It’s not because they aren’t as smart. Figures from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland show that 83.4% of female school leavers achieved at least 5 GCSEs at grades A-C or equivalent, compared to 74.1% of male leavers. It also showed that that there was a £20.10 difference in median full-time gross weekly earnings. In our evolving society it is important that we do not overlook these issues.
One major female stereotype that is prevalent in today’s society is that they must be thin, not at all muscly and have none of the stereotypical male tendencies. How does that fair for the girls who want to be footballers or rugby players or just like to go to the gym and do weights? I strongly doubt it affects them positively. This terrible stereotype has had noticeable implications and further figures from OFMDFM Northern Ireland show that only 46% of females partook in sport in 2013/14 compared to 61% of males.
Some stereotypes are fun and enjoyable such as the stereotypical Scotsman who walks around in a kilt; plays the bagpipes and has ginger hair pouring out wildly from under his Tam o’Shanter while chasing his sheep across a rainy highland glen. This sort of stereotype has given everyone something ridiculous to dress up as at fancy dress parties and produced an opening in the market for the sale of dodgy Tam o’Shanters with ginger hair for those unfortunate enough not to have the copper locks themselves. However, as I have shown, some stereotypes are not at all fun and are, rather, the contrary.
For everyone to become equal, male or female, we must first look at ourselves; evaluate our ways, our views and our actions. We must step into the light and say no to gender stereotypes. Then we shall walk together, as one, as equals, as kind and caring human beings.
†This survey developed a ratio of 2:1 females to males.
Reference to sources:
Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland ‘Gender Equality Statistics: Update 2015′ – http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/gender-equality-stats-update-2015.pdf
The Law Society of Scotland ‘Tackling the gender pay gap – 42% difference between male and female solicitors’ – http://www.lawscot.org.uk/news/2015/07/tackling-the-gender-pay-gap-42-difference-between-male-and-female-solicitors/