A lot can change in a century. We humans have done some pretty amazing things – we’ve taken to the skies, flown to space, broken numerous records, destroyed 50% of the planets wildlife (minus 100 points). It still boggles the mind though that as a species that we could treat one half of us different, lesser to the other half. Women have only had the right to vote since 1917 – that’s not even a hundred years. That’s when the race for equality started, and it’s sad to see that it’s still being run. What’s worse is the gap between men and women is still there, and just as big.
“Sexism is built into our society – it’s easy to miss and it’s easy to get used to it”.
I read an interesting interview with actress Gillian Anderson just now, highlighting Hollywood’s attitude toward women. It’s short and to the point, but one thing stands out during the read – it’s not just Hollywood where it remains intolerable.
A survey published in August showed that female bosses are paid up to 35% less than their male counterparts. This is 40 years after the Equal Pay Act 1970, and the 2010 Equality Act were enforced to stop less favourable pay and conditions in the workplace for women.
Going back to the arts, female comedians are often talking about sexist heckling while on stage. One comedienne I follow on Facebook said “I wouldn’t mind if they were heckling me for the jokes, but they weren’t.” Miranda Hart, interviewed back in 2011, said that sexism is rife in comedy, and female comedians should be assessed only on their work, not their appearance.
There’s also the cases of sexism turning sinister. You probably saw the news of a man jailed for abusing a woman over Twitter – threatening to sexually assault her, all because she wanted to replace Charles Darwin with author Jane Austin on the face of the £10 note. The campaign, started by Caroline Criado-Perez, a freelance journalist who writes for womens websites and blogs, was a response to the Bank Of England replacing social reformer Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on the £5, leaving no female presence on any English bank notes. Despite the threats, Miss Criado-Perez made sure that we all knew that the abuse she received was just “a drop in the ocean” compared to the abuse other women receive.
Another, possibly more talked about example of this more tech-savvy sexism is the recent iCloud scandal, which saw celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Kate Upton (to name but a few) learn that alleged nude photo’s of them had been leaked online. Note the celebrities were all female. The outrage was global, and instantanious. Debates were made as to how or why the pictures got online, or even existed in the first place. (The best example is this brilliant piece by John Sharp)
It seems like any time a woman tries to reach further than “the norm”, if they achieve something greater than what’s intended for them, then they must be brought back down to earth – to be mocked, ridiculed, sexualised. This is not right or acceptable.
Sept. 21 2014: Emma Watson’s moving speech about gender equality and the he for she campaign
Emma Watson recently spoke at the United Nations in a bid to change all this, to change “gender inequality”. She launched the HeForShe campaign, asking for men to help in the cause. There was no men bashing, which for some reason has become synonymous for some reason with feminism. (That’s right – “feminism” isn’t a dirty word!) The sad thing is that literally hours after her moving, thought-provoking and often emotional speech, the one-time-woman-wizard was facing rumours of her own private pictures/videos of her being leaked on the internet. Yes it turned out to be fake, revealed to be some sick marketing ploy by something called Rantic. Ignoring this organisations disgusting motives for spreading such a malicious lie, it threatened to over-shadow Emma Watson’s speech, while at the same time highlighting the very thing she was talking about – women lack respect, whether for their ideas, their work, who they are…
The HeForShe Campaign has of course generated the requisite #HeForShe craze, giving people the opportunity to show the world through social media how much they support and agree with the cause. But a hashtag is not enough. If we really want to remove everything that I’ve mentioned in this article – the pay differences, the heckling, the threats, the violence – then we need to actually make those changes in attitude and perception towards women (and men), not just tweet about them with a suitable selfie. This is not to belittle Miss Watson’s message – it’s imperative that gender inequality stops. I sit here, the home-husband of a hard working doctor, nervous for my little girl growing up in this same unequal environment, and planning steps to ensure my son will never believe in the tripe that is said against women.