© 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.
- My Body is a Wonderland; a Sexual Wonderland
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?
- That your body in its natural form, is inherently sexual and should therefore be prohibited.
- That in turn a boy/man/whoever’s education is contingent on how focused they can be (around you).
- Which in turn implies that this person can’t stay focused so long as your sexual body is distracting them.
- Therefore, it is your job as an inherently sexual being to cover up if you expect anyone to get any work done, or additionally, are to remain safe.
- And finally, if you do decide to dress like this, you must be doing it for attention (heaven forbid you dress for yourself).
Conversely, what message does this send to young boys/admirers of girls?
- You, young man, have no control – least of all over your sexual desires (this notion is the basis of what has become rape culture).
- And because you are always thinking about sex, in an all-consuming way, multi-tasking is not an option for you. You couldn’t possibly ever be engaged with anything else as much as you are engaged with this.
- Conversely, because you are always engaged in the pursuit of sex, it would be inconceivable to think you could ever be violated… least of all by a woman.
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.
- Missing & murdered indigenous women is still a thing
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.
- Unequal pay in the workforce is DEFINITELY still a thing.
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,