Causes closest to my heart are those that relate to societal inequities. Be they related to ageism, sexism, racism, sexual orientation or health, but in this blog post, my efforts will focus on those that involve sex and gender.
Equality, it’s not too big an ask, surely?
I remember first discussing these issues with a friend of mine when I first started university in 2014. It was to her surprise that I openly supported gender equality, “oh, a male feminist, eh?” to which I responded, “I suppose I am, yes”. She proceeded to tell me how rare such disclosures were. This got me thinking: why is it that supporting equity and equal rights is so apparently difficult, or at the very least, uncomfortable? Maybe it’s seen as a threat to their masculinity? It certainly is not. Maybe it comes with negative connotations? Why, if you truly believe in equality (and want to fight for it), does this worry you? If anything, it demonstrates a whole new level of power: the power to be open, honest and fair. I feel very much like Trudeau as I write this… it’s shocking that so few men fight for a cause that we all should be extremely concerned about. To my fellow chaps, gents, lads and guys, I urge you think about this: would you want your mother, your sister, your female partner, your daughter, or your female best friend to have the same chances in life as you? Surely you would. I know I do, but the fact that they don’t have access to the same opportunities as me, infuriates me beyond belief. ‘But where do I start?’ I hear you ask…
The Three Frontiers
Think back just a few weeks, to when Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand’s Labour leader) was questioned on her childbearing intentions just seven hours into the job… seven hours! And 47 years on from the Equal Pay Act in the UK, an act which should prevent employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of gender, sadly, the organisations we (here in the UK) expect to be leading by example are doing anything but leading. Even in some of the world’s most supposedly ‘progressive’ regions, there are obvious, chronic failures (let alone the world’s most oppressive regions!).
The issue revolves around affording women the opportunity to assume an equal status with men. To neglect this status is a gross injustice. Too often, both in time and geography, women have been sidelined. Gender issues are rarely viewed as a priority, despite the fact that women comprise half of the world’s population. Quite frankly, it’s appalling that no single country has achieved total equality.
Autonomy must be shared equally throughout society, be it in the domestic sphere of relationships; the occupational sphere of employer-employee relations; or the political sphere of decision-making. For me, the fight for equality should occur at these three frontiers: at home, at work, and at the polling station. Nag your boss, nag the lazy/the procrastinators, question those that shy away from the issue and perhaps most importantly, engage politically and vote for those with similar attitudes. We must challenge even the slightest of slightest denial of equal opportunity. We must challenge not with anger and frustration, but with curiosity and polite correction. If the opportunities aren’t taken up, it doesn’t matter. We must remind ourselves that this issue is solely about choice, it’s about sharing freedom so that we can all make our own independent decisions.
Oh, I almost forgot. Would you like to know another incredibly important, and simply, thing you can do? Get yourself a copy of this book and read it. I’m not an avid reader but I couldn’t put it down. It’s graphic but everyone needs to read this and be aware…
The light at the end of the tunnel? It’s us
It is 2017, 104 years on from the drastic actions of Emily Davison (see video below) that began to make the UK think and reflect. The world is long overdue for change. I take pride in identifying as part of this particularly progressive generation. We all should feel proud together, to be fighting for such an important issue. Let it not take another century to achieve full equality! Let us do our part now, and we could be part of the generation that achieves full equality…
What have I done / experienced / learnt?
My time spent in India (August 2015) with the ISIC-15 team opened my eyes more than I could have imagined. It was difficult listening to the women’s stories. Cases of oppression, abuse and scorn remain rife in India, with many males adopting a view that makes rape a perfectly acceptable act. Some stories were nothing short of horrifying. However, the fact that so many guys (from UK, India and Pakistan) were involved in this course was a sign of hope. This was the first time I encountered fellow gender rights ‘advocates’; we represented progression and were a sign of changing attitudes and priorities.
Fast forward almost a year, and I take you to Ghana (April 2016). While visiting a research institute, the most senior official delivers a speech to our group. Within which he shares his view that women are, and should always be, subordinate to men; they should remain caring for the children while the (macho) male of the household goes to work and provides for the family. While it was neither the time nor place to interject with my contrasting views, I sometimes wish I had done so. I wonder how rewarding the look of horror on his face would have been, coming from a fellow ‘man’.
Following my summer exams, I ventured to China (July 2016). Here I gave a presentation to a research team in Beijing on European demographic trends, paying particular attention to the changing gender roles in Europe. While there was no obvious difference in attitudes, this was more a mission of education and knowledge-sharing, hopefully instilling some egalitarian thoughts in their minds!
Long is the way and hard, that leads from darkness into the light…
Although I don’t follow many celebrities, Emma Watson is one of the lucky few that receive my keen interest because of her actions as a UN Women goodwill ambassador. With celebrity actions, as well as blog posts like these, whereby the struggle for gender equality is given a public face, brought to the fore and discussed, things will change in a matter of time. And we have the power to make this change come sooner.
We must interject and challenge even the slightest of derogatory comments about people of other genders, faiths, sexual orientation, age, or health status. We must challenge not with reciprocal hatred or arrogance, but with curiosity and polite correction. This is precisely where we must be an upstander. In the words of America’s previous First Lady: “when they go low, we go high”.