Every now and then my anger rises as something else happens to highlight how little movement has been made towards women being treated as equals. Yesterday it was a Twitter conversation and I was reminded again about the blog post I’ve had bubbling in my brain for a very long time. It was time to dump those thoughts and get them down, so here goes…
I’m old enough to remember the growth of feminism in the UK, with the rather bizarre strap line of ‘burn your bra’, which unfortunately just meant swathes of women going bra-less thinking they were making a point about equality, and men being drawn to commenting on women’s breasts far more than ever. Not exactly the hoped for reaction.
Equality over the past 40-50 years has moved very little; women are still not paid equal wages to men for doing the same work and the lack of women in positions of power is still sadly lacking. Watching competitive series on tv such as Masterchef Professionals highlights how few women are either chefs, or, far more likely, chosen to appear on such shows. The way women’s sport is showcased differently to men’s, the women’s football World Cup coverage is indicative of this at the moment. The disparity of showcasing women’s skills is enormous.
Women have to fight to achieve, far more than men. We are ruled by our bodies from early teens. The monthly periods that can often be extremely painful, cramping stomach pains that can be debilitating at times but through which we continue to function and function well. Menstruation does not diminish ability in the same way getting an erection at an inappropriate time doesn’t stop men from doing anything.
The silent judgement passed on younger women when they apply for jobs or promotions on whether they’re likely to get pregnant and can the business sustain that ‘interruption’ or the perceived cost? Whereas any employee can choose to leave a job at any time and recruitment to fill that vacancy can often be more expensive and difficult to manage than a planned maternity break.
Oh and once a woman has had a child the rolled eyes when the child is unwell and they have to take time off/work from home/leave early. Whereas men can and do take time off/work from home/leave early without question or challenge.
And women can often be as harsh to other women. I’ve worked with women who have tried to discount applications when shortlisting for vacancies because”she’s likely to go onto maternity leave” or “she’s got young children” as though it’s an affliction and refusing to see the contribution these women will make and the skills they will bring. As you will expect I overruled these ridiculous reasons.
But all of these things still don’t compare to the gross inequality of pay or opportunities for women. I cannot think of a single area of work that I’ve experienced where women are treated equally in those respects. Pay scales in the public sector are an attempt to apply equality however I know of far too many occasions where decisions to start a man at a higher rate or to jump up the scales are taken all too frequently. Where it’s still considered that if a meeting needs note taking, a woman in the meeting will be expected to do it as well as organising the tea and biscuits. I remember joining a team and was asked to be part of a monthly meeting only to be taken aside by one of the senior (male) members of the meeting and asked, quite forcefully, if my role in the meeting was just to take minutes. He was put in his place by mine and his (female) manager but that didn’t stop him not listening to my views in those meetings.
Recently I found an article on the success of my daughter at an awards ceremony, she and two male colleagues had been recognised for their work and she had received more awards than her colleagues had, however she pointed out to me that she received the least amount of quotes and was last to be mentioned in the article. Subtle but powerful ways to diminish the success of a woman.
There are far too many instances of that kind and I could write a book about them. The recent #metoo campaign highlighted how women are treated as sex-objects by men. This too enforces inequality. The drunk boss at a Christmas party saying to me “come to my office, we can discuss a promotion for you” is another example of how men assume power over women. Luckily I was able to ignore him but how many young girls would feel unable to just laugh in their bosses face, give a look that said “in your dreams mate” and walk away?
Comments made, very sadly by women as well as men, on how a woman’s choice of clothing can invite men to abuse women, make my blood boil. My clothing choices have never been about how men should treat me, I have always worn clothes that make me feel how I want to feel; powerful, smart, sexy, comfortable, relaxed etc. Those are my choices. I don’t look at a man wearing a tight pair of trousers and see that as an open invitation to grab his arse or fondle his penis and I don’t expect men to see any woman’s clothes choice as a similar invitation.
I worry that there’s a generation of young women who will see and hear the stories of men abusing women and not feel able to make the clothing or style choices, career decisions, life choices because they fear not being taken seriously. It’s not about females it’s about males being taught that being male doesn’t give them rights over women, that we are all equal and that respect should be automatic (enduring respect is earned but everyone should respect their fellow humans).
I’m curious as to what part of the evolutionary process was it where men assumed the role as being better than women. Gender doesn’t determine anything about character, intelligence or worth just what bits your body has.
After 50 years of no appreciable change it’s time for action not platitudes, it isn’t open for discussion, it’s the right of all to be treated equally without question. Stop talking, just do it.