Like an equal.
Regardless of either persons gender.
Like an equal.
Regardless of either persons gender.
© Steph Jael, 2015
Does Gender Inequality Actually Exist: 3 things that became grossly apparent.
(when I felt my gender)
*Disclaimer: It should be noted that gender falls within a spectrum. Perhaps one of my greatest realizations that has come from my encounter with gender inequality is the variety and fluidity that gender has presented itself in. We are more than just men and more than just women. Non-binary terms are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past.
It is with that, that I state, for the sake of this article I am writing this from the perspective of a woman; realizing the expectation that traditional male/female stereotypes were expecting from me. It is my hope to delve into further discussions on future posts about the many facets of identity, from many perspectives.*
So my photo was censored… and then another one after that, and another. All of a sudden my gender and what was expected of me became pretty apparent. Something that I had never really thought about, that had always been relatively fluid, suddenly was demanding things from me that I hadn’t bothered to really question before. It was the middle of summer, disgustingly hot, and 3 men got on the elevator, shirtless. Where I once had not questioned how acceptable that was, I was now feeling rage. I was just as warm as they were, why couldn’t I be shirtless, without being objectified? Things started to sink in pretty quickly… gender inequality still existed.
Here are 3 key things that became grossly sobering as I realized gender inequality is in fact alive and well.
This one cuts deep and can be traced back as early as the middle years with simple concepts like “dress-coding” for young girls. Being a “tomboy” with baggy clothes, hoping to hide whatever it was puberty was doing to my lean and androgynous frame, I had never personally experienced this. But in watching the experience of my friends, I can’t count the number of times they were sent home, asked to change or to cover up because their clothing (or skin) were distracting.
What exactly is this idea saying to young girls?
Conversely, what message does this send to young boys/admirers of girls?
What we don’t seem to realize is that from even our early years, we begin grooming and sending out the message that our bodies are to be reduced down to nothing more than sexual objectification. We are not endorsing any regard for the content of our character or the responsibility of our own moral and ethical code.
Simply put, we are sending the message that sex is broken down into two categories; sex giver (women) sex receiver (men). Movements like the Slut Walk or the Free the Nipple effort will later become contingent on this ideal.
Now this one has always been close to my heart. Growing up indigenous, in an indigenous neighborhood, I have always been aware of the marginalization and inequality of my people in Canada. But as I started to digest the idea of gender inequality, I realized that one of the biggest indicators it still existed was the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women movement – a topic still very much present today.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada states that between the years 2000 to 2008, Aboriginal women and girls represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada, even though they make up only 3% of the female population. NWAC’s research confirms that Aboriginal women experience violence by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders, and the vast majority are men.
While these numbers show that racial divide is still very much present in Canada, it is also worth noting that another demographic within this issue is reserved for women.
Archaic as this concept may seem when I really looked at it, it became quite apparent that the pay gap between men and women is also still very much existent and another indicator of inequality.
I didn’t have to look very far for an example. A good friend of mine makes next to minimum wage serving. She has a university degree, and has been with her company for 8+ years. While she does make additional money in gratuities it is not near the amount her boyfriend, without having finished high school, makes in the labor industry. During off season when he is unable to work, he makes more on Employment Insurance (60% of his earnings) alone than she will make during a full 40 hour work week.
While it should be noted that women are now claiming their place in the working world we still have quite a ways away to go. Women are now able to hold positions in traditionally male dominated industries, but this does not deny the reality that other traditionally female dominated industries do not receive the same or comparable compensation. Even within my current field of Public Relations, women make up more than 70% of the field, but still make less than men. Huffington Post: Gender Pay Gap Canada article elaborates on this further.
I don’t hate you guys, I swear.
For what it’s worth I want to make it clear that my comments in no way whatsoever are meant as an attack on one gender in order to uplift another – if we are going to break it down to two genders at all. For some reason I have found whenever a comment is made with the intent of uplifting a woman someone has felt the need to spin the effort as an attack against men. I personally have some wonderful men in my life. They have done nothing but love, support, and respect me. Perhaps that is why it took me so long to realize that the rest of the world did not view women the same way they do. It is because of the men in my life (and the women, and the in between’s) that I am inspired to speak up on these issues. No one benefits from gender inequality.
All people are loving, sentient beings, that are beyond the stereotypes and expectations society places on us – and it is with that in mind that I encourage you to think about these things… and then challenge them.
All my love,
The above image is responsible for how I found feminism – which in turn lead me to the idea for Shirts are for Boys. This photo is one I took this past summer of my partner Hannah, while we were at a Manitoban nude beach. To be honest, at the time it was taken there were no real convictions or preconceived meanings behind it. The landscape was vibrant, the weather was warm, and after a lifetime of struggling with my own body issues I felt incredibly free being naked. Quite simply, I wanted to remember that moment, and so I took a picture. Not for a minute were there any thoughts about what the implications of taking this photo could be, or how it would completely change everything I thought I knew.
Let me back up a little bit. I was never fond of the idea of feminism. For one, I had no real idea of what the term actually meant and absolutely no intention of finding out. Like many, my idea of a feminist was an angry, man-hating lesbian with short hair, plaid shirts, and body hair. Given that I was already a short-haired, plaid-wearing lesbian I set out to make sure I conveyed an image that made it clear I was a humanitarian – NOT a feminist. I didn’t hate men and quite frankly didn’t really believe women were having that much of a different experience from them. It’s the 21st century, in North America nonetheless. Women have the right to vote, are allowed to wear pants, and sometimes we even get away with bad behavior because we are “non-threatening”. For women in the LGBTQ community, we were now able to legally get married, hold pride parades (in Canada) without much interference and for the first time in a long time had a growing amount of community support. Truthfully, I didn’t see the point in feminism or the true value of its efforts. I had never really felt connected to my gender until I received this response on my sharing of the photo of Hannah from a reputable social media platform:
“We removed your post because it doesn’t follow our Community Guideline. Please read our Community Guidelines to learn how you can help keep our site safe.”
Censorship?! My photo was reported for nudity and taken down because it was offensive?! I was in shock.
I had heard of censorship and the “free the nipple” movement. I had read articles on public breast feeding and knew the female body was offending people far and wide. But the actual implications of it were so far removed from anything I had experienced personally – I was outraged.
I have been an artist my entire life and am constantly striving to create controversial work. One photo I had success with entitled “She” depicted violence against a person identified as a woman. The photo gained some attention, shocked a few, and got some commercial and artistic recognition – but not once did it seem to offend anyone, least of all social media platforms. Now here I was… offending not only the individual who felt compelled to report my photo as inappropriate (which is actually quite petty in my opinion) but an entire social media guideline! I couldn’t wrap my head around how something that was meant to be a beautiful moment was being exploited and taken entirely out of context. It was then that I got angry. How dare a widely accepted and used social media site, one that should be responsible in encouraging ethical treatment and equal rights of all peoples, try to censor something that was very clearly artistic?
In response to my photo being removed I shared a call to action for all of my viewers, supporters, and fans to share the photo of Hannah. To my surprise people responded with an overwhelming amount of love and support by not only sharing my photo but adding commentary and encouragement to continue pushing back against my censorship. All of a sudden my inbox and media pages were being flooded with touching emails, words of encouragement, and stories of individuals who wanted this story shared – most of these people being women. Women who were vocalizing and sharing their stories that did in fact prove our experiences are different from men. That even though we can vote, wear pants, secure employment, that we are still very much existing in a binary and oppressive structure. That femininity, regardless of gender, was not socially acceptable and therefore something to be censored. That by accepting a part of yourself and owning your existence you can challenge social constructs – without being an angry lezzie.
It is this realization that lead me here, to this blog, Shirts are for Boys. Think about that phrase for a moment. I mean really let it sink in. How ridiculous is the notion that a shirt is for a boy… or a girl? That bare chests are only acceptable for one gender, while dresses and the colour pink for another? That any object or expression is reserved for a specific characteristic? That it is offensive for someone to be anything they want to be?
Shirts are for Boys is a creative response to inequality in our current culture. The focus is on creatively informing and discussing relevant issues surrounding gender. It is a blog dedicated to encourage readers to live authentically, find self love, and be what ever you want to be. It is about empowering others, exploring non-binary concepts, and liberation.
This is my response to censorship. It comes with love, compassion, and a real desire to affect change. Shirts are not just for boys, they are for whoever the hell want to wear them.
– Steph Jael
P.S. I’m sorry your body is offensive Hannah