Honey, we need to talk. There is something very important we must discuss and I don’t care it’s late or that you are tired after work. You see, a few weeks ago I finally read We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and besides nodding all my way through the short book, and falling in love with Chimamanda’s mind, I felt like this topic was one we really need to talk about. So what started as a review of the book, ended being a very lengthy and honest discussion about feminism. Very, very lengthy, I must say. Sometimes I have no control over my ranting, you know that. So to make it a little bit lighter I added some gifs and quotes from the book. But jokes aside, this IS important. And I ask you to read it, to the extent that you are capable of, all the ranting considered. But please, give it a try.
Feminism, the f-word we should all talk about
“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
We are in the twenty first century, half way through the year 2017. In this very moment, as I am writing this post, more than 3 billion people in the world are women. That means that the world’s female population stands as more than the 49.5% of the World’s total. Or in other words, pretty much half of the world’s population is female.
Which makes me think that it would be right to assume that the world is female as much as it is male. Therefore, you would think that being practically equal in number and having the same share of the Planet we inhabit together, men and women would have the same rights. You would even think that we must be equal. Well, unfortunately, you couldn’t be more wrong. The ugly truth is that we aren’t equal. Furthermore, gender inequality not only exists around the world, it’s actually present in our daily life whether or not we want to accept or see it. It affects us either way. And yes, it is true that we have walked a long way. We don’t even have to go that far back in time to see the differences and the advances we have made regarding equality. However, even if gender doesn’t suppose as big of a problem as it used to, we still have way too much work ahead of us. And you know what? As of today, and silly orange shaded leaders aside, the situation doesn’t look that promising.
According to wikipedia, gender inequality refers to unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender. It arises from differences in socially constructed gender roles.
What I would like to ask anyone reading this is the following: have you ever been treated differently because of your gender? Have you ever been told to do something in particular, or act in a particular way, just because you are a woman?
I can take a guess and say that your answer will probably be along the lines of “naah, not really”. So now, I’d like to formulate my question differently: have you ever noticed being treated differently because you are a woman? Have you ever noticed the difference in how women or men, girls or boys, act or are told to behave in certain situations?
Maybe your answer is still negative. And I should be really happy if that’s the case. The problem is that a negative answer to the questions above only makes me more skeptical. The fact is that as much as I want to hear you denying ever being treated differently because of your gender, the reality is far from that. Because the truth is that we, as women, are constantly affected and bombed by these socially-constructed-gender-roles. So maybe now you start paying more attention to certain things or comments. And maybe then, you will start noticing something that you failed to see in the past. Maybe next time someone shames a woman for the clothes she is wearing, instead of thinking “wow that skirt was really that short”, you think “wow how dare they tell her how to dress”. Maybe next time someone says “that woman wears the pants at home, she doesn’t want to interrupt her career to stay home with her kids”, you’ll think “wow, how dare they impose what must or must not be normal for a woman”. And maybe, just maybe, next time someone says about their boss or supervisor “she is in a mood today, she must be on her period”, instead of laughing and nodding you’ll think “wow, how utterly wrong is saying that about a woman in a powerful position”.
“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.”
And that is what matters. That something in you shifts in that direction of thought and that you start paying attention to all the little details and comments that day by day add to the gender inequality reality when we ignore them or agree nodding with our heads.
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a short but concise and powerful statement about all of the above. About gender and the inherent inequality. And I strongly, strongly believe that everyone, female or male, old or young, should read it. Chimamanda’s personal experiences and observations of some aspects of Nigeria’s society highlight the enormous amount of work we still have to do regarding the gender problem.
In my opinion, her words were eye opening above anything else. And even if I have always been aware of this existing inequality between genders, this book highlighted the fact that I was born with a privilege. I was lucky geographically and culturally, but more than that, I was lucky to be born into a family environment that raised me to be this independent woman I am today. One that believes in equality.
I am in my mid twenties and I have worked and lived in 3 different countries, I have met people from all around the world and I have travelled the globe. I have friends scattered around the world from different nationalities. I’ve had the opportunity to compare what I know or consider “normal” to what other people born in different places and under different circumstances do. The fact that other girls my age struggle to accomplish their dreams just because they were born female in a particular country or culture breaks my heart. But it also remarks two different things, 1) that I should thank every day for my privilege as an European young woman and 2) the fact that even if we are not directly affected by the major impacts of inequality, they still exist. And there is still much left to do to fight them and vindicate the equality women deserve. Starting by women ourselves.
So today I just want to create some sort of awareness, because gender inequality is real. And much to my dismay, and even if I consider myself privileged and lucky, I don’t have to leave my supposedly equal environment to prove that society is still holding on to the unconscious idea that women and men are not equal.
This week, during my coffee break at work, I was with two colleagues in the small kitchen near our office. We were 2 women and a man, all in our twenties. We were joking around with the guy, talking about whether or not he was a gentleman. Both of us girls were waiting for the water to boil so we could prepare our tea, and he made the following remark while cleaning his mug “am I gentleman now that I am doing the woman’s work cleaning the mugs?”. You know, you may think he was joking around. Regardless, that simple comment shocked me. He was actually stating a fact for him. The other girl, who knows him longer and better than me, replied “oh, you only say that because your wife takes care of everything in the kitchen”. And then she laughed, like this it was totally normal. In this day and age, to hear such thing from young people shocks me.
And you know what? What shocked me the most is that the guy was actually serious. Sure, he was joking about the gentleman part, but he definitely wasn’t about the cleaning being the woman’s job. The gender role. He was probably raised seeing his mom doing that while his dad sits at the table expecting everything done. That was probably his ‘normal’ and that is what his ‘normal’ became now that he is married. What bothers me is that his children will most likely repeat the cycle. And this is where it has to stop. We keep allowing the gender roles to persist adding to the more global problem. And keep in mind that we are only talking about chores and housekeeping, being that not even the tip of the iceberg. Not even the snowflake slowly falling on the tip of the iceberg.
But what about some other little things such as science is for boys and arts for girls? How about blue is for boys and pink for girls? What about girls play with dolls and boys with trucks? Oh, you might think how silly are those insignificant remarks. But then, what about men earning more money for the same job? What about men should bring the money home? What about sacrificing women’s careers for taking care of a family? What about blatantly shaming women for something a man will be called the f*cking boss? What about the considerable lower number of women in powerful positions? What about the considerable low number of women that get far in politics? Because ALL that exists, as much as it seems not to affect us in a direct way. But you know what? It actually does affect us. Everything counts, every little drop adds to the way we unconsciously perceive the place of a woman in society.
And right now, that place is not beside a man. It’s behind or under one.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. (…) We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
But for changing that, we need to work our way from the very bottom. We need to tackle education. We need to raise boys and girls to believe that they are equal. We have to stop telling them and we need to show them. We need to stop fearing the f-word. We should all be feminists. We should talk about it. Because gender inequality targets the female and we all must stand against that.
Girls can be writers, scientists, engineers, astronauts, doctors, wives, mothers or presidents. Girls can be as feminine as they want without being slutty. Girls can have as many occasional partners as boys without being shamed. Girls can be single and love their career and be perfectly happy. Girls can rule villages, cities and countries as good as any man would do. Girls can be powerful and smart and beautiful and kind and successful and feminist, and be perfect. Don’t let any man, woman, culture, religion or society tell you otherwise.