Thursday, August 29, 2013

Equality between women and men

Have you noticed that we usually talk about 'men and women' and not about 'women and men'? If we are to achieve equality for all we must get to the stage where we feel comfortable using both these phrases interchangeably. That isn't the only thing that must change. We must have equal representation (about 50%) of women and men in politics, in boardrooms, and in other workplaces. This alone would revolutionise how we perceive men and women, but there's a lot more to equality than this. For now, though, it's a good place to start. I'm sick of women not being taken as seriously as men. In 2003 I wrote to the Oxford University Press because they used 'he' to speak for humanity in general on their website, not 'they' or 's/he'. The woman who responded to my complaint failed to find fault with this privileging of the male over the female. I wonder how she would respond today in the light of the renewed feminist consciousness the world is currently experiencing. Would she have the same ignorance?
It took me a long time to notice that most protagonists in everything from children's books to crime fiction are male. A woman learns to put herself in the shoes of a male early on, to prioritise 'his' voice over 'hers'. This leads to an imbalance in our society where men are seen as the default setting for humanity, and we assume that the male point-of-view is universally relevant. What we need is more stories that focus on the female experience - approximately half of protagonists should be female, and equally authoritative. That is what equality means to me, and it would change a lot of things in the world, not least of which the self-esteem of all of society's members for the better. I don't believe for a second that men really want to be dominant. I believe it is a burden, the disadvantage that comes with being advantaged, and they would want change as much as female feminists do if they really had the time and space to think about it (and do some soul-searching). All of us need to help each other understand the obstacles to understanding the other, so that we can overcome them, and have females empowering males and males empowering females equally.

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