Equality is Everybody’s Business
I'm so excited to share an article with you today, written by Evelyn Chong, a writer, blogger, feminist and all-round lovely human being. In her post, she talks about gender equality, what it means, and why it's so important for men - and society as a whole - to help iron out gender bias.
When Eve says, ‘feminism is often perceived as something negative, as a war women declare against men’ she is so right (to men that think it is: dude, stop making everything about YOU!) Here at Strong Women Squad we love men, and in the words of Beyoncé (QUEEN), 'to all men that respect what I do please accept my shine'. But equality benefits everyone, across workplaces, home life, country borders... equality is everyone's business.
Take it away, Eve...
Equality is Everybody’s Business
by SWS guest writer, Evelyn Chong
I am so excited and proud of my friend, Lisa Dickenson for starting Strong Women Squad and we should celebrate all these women who are doing incredible things to change how we perceive women. I am indeed honoured to be given the chance to be featured in SWS, to share my two cents on the possibility of gender equality.
Before we dive deep into whether gender equality is possible, we must first understand “gender”. Gender is a socially constructed term that can be defined as attitudes, feelings, and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Society creates gender roles, and these roles are prescribed as ideal or appropriate behaviour for a person of that specific gender. People often assume that gender is within our genes and it is biological. They find it hard to believe that gender is indeed ever-changing, liquid and growing out of daily interaction and social activities.
So where does our social life fit into this whole gender equation?
Gender differences are caused by perceived roles from family institutions and jobs. Back then, fathers are often breadwinners and mothers take care of their kids at home and house chores. Men are often seen as stronger and stable some jobs like pilots and judges are offered to only them. In the past, most engineers are males and I was once thrown the statement, “Are you sure that you want to be a chemical engineer where you can’t be pretty and wear skirts most of the time?” Does it mean that men have better judgement and logic or compared to women?
Apart from that, the common, daily words that we use also shape our attitudes. We may be doing it unconsciously but let me tell you, most languages are gender bias. English is an example of a gender bias language as it shows the preference of the masculine over the feminine. We tend to use masculine pronouns (he, his, him, himself) whenever we are uncertain of the gender of the person we’re talking about. Apart from that, males are also often referred using root words (eg : lion and tiger) and suffixes are needed for female. It gives an impression that females are weaker and are subordinates to males. Men are featured as leaders and women as dependents, seriousness are associated with men and emotionalism with women.
Many authors used to depict women as manipulative and evil, just like how in fairy-tales, witches are usually female and not male. Apart from that, female characters were often evaluated on the basis of appearance. There were standards on how to be a good woman, successful but not more than your husband, be polite but stay honest, be lady-like and matured, uphold cultural beliefs and never comment on sexism. Those were pressure to gain social acceptance which in turn cause them to someone false, someone socially constructed.
With everyone basically “living” on social media and the massive awareness on the need to champion gender equality in the 21st century, the society, men and women have been working to avoid repeating past mistakes as they have been living in a box all these years, trapped with the idea of gender roles and stereotypes. Although we are just in the beginning of making big changes, small efforts matter.
It is okay to start small.
What makes gender equality more achievable is that women know where they stand. There has been an increase in feminism movements since the first wave of feminism. Feminism is not a word women use to claim that they can do more than men but a word they use to achieve gender equality, to say that both genders are equal. However, feminism is often perceived as something negative, as a war women declare against men. In the first wave of feminism, which took place in the late nineteenth century, it was due to urban industrialism and liberal, socialist politics. Now, women are sick of being oppressed and they are aware of what they are deprived of, being invisible, unequal pay, unequal opportunities and unequal treatment. Choices of words women use to describe our lives and the lives of others also reflect their awareness on the issue. Some women choose to keep their name even when they are married, because marital status and gender should not be a barrier.
Feminism is no longer a dirty word. Feminism is not a choice. Feminism is a responsibility.
Now, we can see that men also take on the responsibilities to take care of their kids, girls and boys are wearing unisex clothes and given the same opportunity in education. Women are allowed to join martial arts activities and efforts have been made to for neutral use of language and definitely, women are portrayed as independent, strong characters that can stand on their own feet.
In politics, there are also women who believe that they could lead and we can see more females involved in politics like former Malawian President, Joyce Banda and former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. On a closer look, we also have female pilots for commercial airlines, female martial arts practitioners, ministers, police, mechanics and many more.
In Asia where I live, we have greater participation of women in politics, women searching for new life opportunities that driven them to migrate legally, or illegally within Asia to bring about the cross cultural exchange of gender role norms. Countries like South Korea and Japan went as far as abolishing pro-men laws, lifting bans on women in military and allowing women to remarry immediately after divorcing. The Philippines has one of the highest representation of women in politics, with nearly 30 percent in lower house and 25 percent in the upper house.
Although the crowd to champion gender equality in Asia is not as loud as it is in the West, we can see that gender differences seem to be blurring and I strongly believe that gender equality is possible.
Today, where we share almost everything, I see more people voicing their opinion on gender equality on my Twitter feed. When Emma Watson’s #HeforShe campaign kicked off in 2014, she extended her formal invitation to all men and boys to be a part of it. Her speech was so influential, it became one of the hottest topic on the social media. Women who once thought their opinion did not matter started to speak up on the issue which once considered a taboo.
Hollywood did not make gender inequality an issue for the rich and famous but for everyone, me and you.
Hollywood seems to love women a lot, featuring them in major films and the characters are often quoted on websites but when it comes to pay, Jennifer Lawrence earned less than her male co-stars in American Hustle, despite her major role in the film and her status as an Oscar winner. Mind you, the gender pay gap issue is not new in Hollywood but no one really addressed it or paid attention before the Sony hack. With such amplification, we are definitely closer to achieving gender equality than we have ever been.
To all men reading this, we celebrate YOU too because gender equality cannot be achieved without all of you.
Since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, there have been tremendous advances in the rights and well-being of women and girls. Although no country in the world can say they have achieved gender equality, we are closer to it now than we were 20 years ago. In the Beijing Platform for Action, one way in achieving the gender equality is by involving men and boys. Similarly, in the #HeforShe campaign held in 2014, Emma Watson invited men and boys to be part of it.
Equality is everybody’s business, and most men are supportive of it – it is not just women’s responsibility.
Both men and women have much to gain from gender equality. Findings have also shown that men agree that they benefit from gender equality. Men realize that anxiety, ignorance and the need to maintain masculinity is holding them back.
Nordic countries like Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden are among the top 10 countries in being gender neutral. They have the best policies in the world for families. Their childcare systems are the best and they have the best laws on paternity, maternity and family leave. The design of parental leave reflects not only on the priorities about the raising of children but also about gender norms and practices.
Harith Iskander, the World’s Funniest Person said that “It makes absolute sense to extend the paternity leave in Malaysia. As a father myself, I firmly believe that fathers’ role in the newborn is as crucial as mothers and paternity leave allows new fathers to ease into the new life and changing roles together with their wives.” Malaysians are only granted three days of paternity leave, only three days! The design can promote gender equality or reproduce inequality, if only women are permitted or encouraged take parental leave.
We want the future generation to live without prejudice and without the pressure of gender expectations. In Obama’s essay for Glamour on the 4th of August 2016, he stated that “It’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.” In that speech, what Obama meant was it was important that he is a feminist for his daughters because one day, that is what girls and women worldwide will expect of all men.
Therefore, with more men getting involved in feminism movements, it is not impossible for gender equality to be a reality.
This fight is yours as well as it is mine.
Ladies, please voice out if you see a double standard.
To all men reading this, I hope you care about gender equality as much as we do and if you don't, please do something about it at the end of this post, which is now.
THANK YOU EVE, for your amazing, insightful article.
Evelyn is an English and Public Relations person, blogs at Eve's Chick Lit Reviews and occasionally writes what she hopes to be impressive stories. Perfectionist and feminist.
Apart from all that, she loves a good chick lit book and drinks strong coffee.