There’s a lot to be said on Sexual Equality, a subject I am no expert in but as International Women’s Day (8th March) came and went I was drawn to thinking about this and what the future might hold.
By 4-years-old our children have decided that there are colours, clothes and jobs for girls and different colours, clothes and jobs for boys. I have tried to explain to my daughter that this is not the case and there are just colours, clothes and jobs and she and her friends can wear and do whatever they want to when they grow up.
Gender stereotyping can be a battle; one I feel I have already lost. But does my daughter’s love for Disney Princesses mean that she is not going to want to, or be able to do a job in science, technology or engineering when she’s older? I’m not sure it does.
But I do worry about her future because gender stereotyping has had/is having serious consequences. I don’t want her to grow up thinking there are certain options that are not relevant to her just because she’s a girl?
If we want to see change, want to make a difference, the most significant thing we can do right now is talk openly to our children (yes our boys as well as our girls), anyone believing that sexual equality is a female only challenge, is demonstrating the problem right there. Shifting a long-held perception on any subject takes time and this change will not be brought to the fore by us but by our children. And like any other revolution, it must start somewhere. It must start with us, now.
There is a way to go, battles still to fight. Young women are still being sexualised, objectified and ridiculed for not looking a certain way. At the same time, older women are criticised for growing old ‘ungracefully’ There’s the pay gap, lack of flexible working, gender parity in business, domestic violence and sexual violence. Things that all need to be addressed in all walks of society, by the media, and by our governments.
And whilst it’s easy to feel disheartened I want to for this moment, focus on what we have, instead of what we don’t have and what we have achieved, instead of what we still have left to do. The disrespectful noises coming from the USA to me are like a rallying cry, I can hear drums in the distance; The girls are coming…
But I am no man-hater, far from it. I feel lucky to have been surrounded by wonderful men all my life, men who have offered love, respect, and support. Something I know not every woman can say. These men; our fathers, partners, brothers, friends, and sons, have made a difference though and will continue to do so. Because they all represent a small piece of the puzzle of equality, it’s a big puzzle, it’s going to take a lot of perseverance to finish, and at this point, there are some pieces missing (we should probably look under the sofa). But it’s starting to take shape, it’s starting to vaguely resemble the picture on the box.
Because from my corner of the world, I tell you, I have seen great things from Womankind, as have the men that have stood next to us, as our allies, they bear witness, they have seen that:
We have been strong.
We have been fearless.
And we have been brave.
We have fallen like them.
We have been in pain like them.
And we have cried like them.
Yet we are not equal?
Our bodies and minds have been broken by carrying and bringing children into the world.
But we have survived.
We have picked them up when they’ve been down.
We have cradled them.
And we have told them that everything will be ok.
We have paid our way.
We have voted and marched.
And we have had a voice.
Yet we are not equal?
We have felt undervalued.
We have felt unappreciated.
But we have carried on.
We have made sacrifices.
We have put our careers on hold and taken jobs we are over qualified for.
And we have stayed in unfulfilling roles because it’s the right thing to do for our families.
Yes, we have needed their help and yes we have needed their strength.
But they have also needed ours.
No, we have not been perfect and we don’t deserve anything we haven’t worked for.
But we do deserve the chance and the opportunity to show we can.
Because our rights are not a competition.
To Mankind; We are different to you in many ways but it doesn’t make us unequal.
We may not have half the top jobs, yet, and we may not earn half the big money but we have in so many other ways been your equal. We should not be judged on job titles, money, status and physical strength alone. These are not the only things that define us and should not be a basis on which to conclude that women are somehow inferior to men.
Because, let’s not forget that men and women will stand here together, side by side, until the end of time. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. We all have our own personal contribution to make.
With this I am hopeful that as our empowered and educated children go out into the world, the future they create will be one where they can feel confident in their ability to do any role and where people are defined by their skills and not their gender. Where women are paid equally and recognised for their contribution, as 50% of the world’s population quite rightly should be.