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Archive for August, 2013

3 years ago I sat in my female-dominated workplace and boldly claimed “I think women actually have equality now, I don’t get why people still feel the need to shout from the rooftops about equal rights”. I have always seen gender as an irrelevance – I happen to be a girl and while I love playing with my makeup I also like football and heavy lifting. I maintain that many equality arguments are not helpful and may even be detrimental as women are reverted to the status of pretty little things which need protecting. However, recent news stories, including the popularity of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’, abuse thrown at women on Twitter and a leading MP explaining how maternity leave held her back. While blatant exclusion may be increasingly rare, the expectation of women to behave in a certain way based on their gender is definitely still there and it’s the little cultural norms which prevents equality between the sexes.

The first issue I would like to address is the notion of consent – that women don’t know what is best and have a duty to satisfy a man’s sexual urges. When I was at school we always were told “no means no” and “don’t feel that you have to do anything you don’t want to” yet teaching 9Hd sex education I realised that actually, for many of these children, the idea of consent was foreign. That no matter how nice a man has been to you, you do not have to let him touch you in any way. I have been in this place myself, being unwilling for someone to touch me, but letting them regardless because they have been nice and I am obviously a cock-tease. I’m educated, stubborn and independent and I felt that way – what hope have we of making young girls realise they have a choice. Listening to the song Blurred Lines brought it home – “OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you, But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature. Just let me liberate you” and “And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl, I know you want it…Talk about getting blasted I hate these blurred lines…But you’re a good girl. The way you grab me. Must wanna get nasty”. Yes women, you must want sex and if you backed out you are an evil cow leading men on. While on a recent visit back to my Northern homeland my family provided me with the helpful advice of “don’t wear that skirt, you don’t want to get raped”. Seriously? My Dorothy Perkins purchased skater dress is justification for someone raping me? Society deems that that’s why you are there, for men to chase after you and if you emit those signals, it’s your own fault. You don’t know what is good for you, let the wise man sort you out. Isn’t that the whole basis of the Twitter hate going to many female users at the moment? The idea that women are silly little creatures who need men to dominate them using their penis and show them their place as glorified sex toys. This attitude is still acceptable in 2013, and worse, is only just starting to be discussed.

The most noticeable is the idea of sex being something which is done to a woman, and it is the function of a man to do this. That the woman can get nothing out of this and the function of sex is to satisfy the man. We should keep ourselves pretty and delicate in order to give men what they want with no concern for our own gains from the relationship. Many arguments against prostitution focus on the objectification of women who can by bought as a commodity. That the woman is not providing a service and getting something out of the arrangement but is being exploited by someone just wanting to get their end away. This may be true in many cases, but again shows the idea of the man being in control of sexual relations.

However, not all men are doucebags and there is a hope that one day you may meet someone who respects you, makes you feel special and you wish to spend your life with. Even with a respectable man beside you women still face discrimination in the workplace based on one biological fact -women get pregnant. It surprised me when, before going to a job interview, my mentor gave me the advice of “don’t mention anything about your home situation, and refuse to answer any questions”. The reason for this? Because my answers may be used to determine how likely it is that I will get pregnant, which will play a factor in whether I will be hired. If I get pregnant I will be staying at home with my family, and if I am going to leave anyway why hire me. After all, childcare is women’s work.

While the actual process of pregnancy may require very little disruption of normal work patterns (if you are lucky), there is an expectation that after birth it will then be the woman who stays at home and it is only in recent months men have even had the option. In my workplace one of the senior managers got pregnant, had her child and was back at work within 3 months. This decision led to hostility from others, it did not matter that her child was being looked after by the father (who earned less and would have less problems returning to work after a break), that the child was still being fed his mother’s milk, and she was still there every evening, somehow my boss was failing her child by paying to keep the roof over its head rather than staying at home. She was a bad mother, because she did not fulfill the imposed standards of others. In custody it is expected that the woman will have the child most of the time – a belief which is simultaneously insulting to men and women. These social pressures force women into staying at home and that means their career prospects are harmed as they are out of the loop for a year.

Now, this article is not to say that gender discrimination doesn’t also happen to men. The expectation on men to be ripped and emotionally strong may be just as detrimental as what I have detailed above. . I resent the expectation that I must behave in a particular way because I was created from a sperm containing an X chromosome.  However, I can only write about what I know and I truly believe that the idea of your entire future being dictated by the set of genitals you happen to possess is insulting and a backwards idea. Can we please move on now?

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