A lot of people today put others down for saying that they are feminists. It’s seen as outdated and pointless. The fact is, the need for gender equality is still huge today. Take advertising: adverts specifically use pink and purple colours to appeal to girls and blues and red for boys, this enforcing stereotypes from a young age. It is much more beneficial for children to experience all types of toys and games with all different colours, because this way they learn more about who they are than what society dictates they should be. If you turned on the television and saw an advert advertising a washing up liquid or any cleaning product, the fact is that the advert will probably feature a woman, whilst an advert promoting a new sports car will have a man in it, these following the well- known stereotypes of the women doing the housework at home and the man being strong and masculine. These types of adverts are so common that we hardly even notice them, but if you really watch the adverts on television, you’re unlikely to find a beer company showing a group of women drinking in a pub, or a man selling you anti-ageing cream. These adverts aren’t as harmless as you may think: you’re probably aware of the effect of advertising models on girls, making them develop eating disorders or getting depressed because of the unrealistic expectations of how they should look that have been thrust upon them by the media. Whilst this is an incredibly important topic, it’s just as important to remember that boys who have no interest in sports are constantly bombarded with images of strong, fit men playing football and hitting on girls, and that they are consequently going to feel just as isolated and depressed.
It’s easy to think that feminism is just about women; after all, its roots come from very female focused ideals, the very name referring to women. But now we need to understand that it is much more about gender equality for everyone. For example, this weekend, you could wear a pair of trousers, a skirt or a dress and no one would care. A boy deciding to wear a dress is a different matter. Why? Because a dress is feminine. Only girls can wear them. Does that sound fair? When you come down to it, is there actually any reason that boys shouldn’t be able to wear whatever they choose without being teased? Of course not. Does a guy liking the colour pink and being interested in their physical appearance automatically mean that they are effeminate and gay? No, these are all just stereotypes people come up with which force others to hide their identity.
Many key positions in churches are only available to men. For example, in Catholicism women can’t be priests, in Islam women are not permitted to become imams and Orthodox Judaism does not allow women to become rabbis. Throughout many religions, there is bridge that women can’t cross, stopping them from becoming prominent religious figures.
Another example of inequality that is prominent at the moment is the imbalance between maternity leave and paternity leave. Whilst a woman can take up to 52 weeks off work after having a child, a man on the other hand can only take a much reduced amount of time, despite it being pivotal that parents should be allowed to spend a lot of time with their children, especially when they are young, to help build strong bonds and provide a stable home environment.
In the United Kingdom 22% of MPs and peers are women, as are 20% of university professors. Some, on average, earn £140,000 less than men in the same career over the course of their working lives. Mothers’ chances of getting a job are reduced by 70%. These figures help illustrate the stark differences men and women face in the workplace.
An insult we probably have all heard that is largely directed towards boys is to call them a girl: you throw like a girl, you scream like a girl etc. When did comparing a boy to a girl become such a horrific thing? Why is it that to be associated with girls and women is to be weak and inferior? These insults enforce seemingly harmless stereotypes.
A disturbing reality when it comes to rape or sexual violence towards women is that people will often blame the victim because she was wearing revealing clothes so she was ‘asking for it’. Or women that sleep with lots of men will be called sluts, whilst men that do the same with girls will often be congratulated.
Across the globe, there are practices taking place that promote gender inequality, such as the fact that child brides are predominantly girls aged between 15 and 19 who are forced into marriage. It is estimated that 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before they are eighteen and over 700 million alive today were married as children.
Women in Saudi-Arabia are not allowed to drive and are forced to rely on their husbands and male relatives to transport them, whilst in countries such as Bahrain and Egypt, women are not allowed to leave the country without their husband’s permission. Imagine how restrictive these rules are, how you would constantly be aware of your lack of freedom.
These examples are just a handful of the constant flow of inequalities people face due to their gender. The fact that these still exist today is appalling. A world where each person is entitled to equal rights and privileges is possible. We need to recognise the ever present need for people to fight against these issues and how they affect everyone. Around the world, there are people who are willing to speak up for their rights and the rights of those around them. The world needs to realise that how we act and who we are is not down to our pre-determined gender, but the way we are born, the environment we are brought up in and the choices we make as individuals.
By Iona Quinn Mann