Gender (in)equality: Rescuing the issue from Page A27

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As mentioned in my post last week, today is Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. (Pssst: It’s not too late to join in!) Basically, you blog about anything related to sexual violence in a collective effort to raise awareness.

So for today, I’d like to blog about gender inequality (which can and does lead to violence). I was talking to another girl today, and we were both complaining about the complacency surrounding gender equality that we seem to see quite often in today’s society.

We agreed that it annoys and frustrates us when people, especially other women, claim that gender equality is here and here to stay. Likewise, it’s even worse when said women, believing the fight for gender equality is over, try to distance themselves from anything remotely resembling the word feminism. (It’s the new F-Word, I’ve been told.) Sorry to break it to everyone, but … gender equality still doesn’t exist, and feminism is still just as important as fucking.

Sure, women can vote, but why is it that in the House of Commons, only about 20% of the seats are held by women? Sure, rape is treated more seriously now than before, but would you want your best girlfriend walking on St-Laurent at 4 am … alone? Sure, there are more women in the military, a traditionally male-dominated field, but what’s up with the prevalence of sexual harassment and the subsequent lack of punishment?

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t want to be pointing fingers at anyone. It’s pretty easy to get complacent about any issue these days. We’re all busy people suffering from information and sensory overload. News reports that make it to the front page get a fair bit of attention from the public for the first couple of days. But after a week or so, the subject slips from page A1 to page A27 and ends up getting squished between the margin and the Bell ad with the talking beavers. The same thing occurs to us, as an issue that seemed so unjust and outrageous two weeks ago now slips away to the backs of our minds.

This is especially true in the case of gender inequality and people of my age. Hell, I wasn’t even born early enough to see the first fights and victories for women’s rights. And so, by the time people in my generation were old enough to read our ABCs, it seemed that such issues were already considered back-page filler fodder.

Gender inequality is not old news though; the fight for equality for all genders has taken new forms. For example, it’s gone international, manifesting itself in the modern-day slave trade. Last year, the first human-trafficking charge in Canada was laid on a man who smuggled Chinese women into Canada and forced them to become prostitutes. In fact, the revelation that 80% of modern-day slaves are women speaks loads about the unequal status of many women around the world.

Want more stats about non-Canadian women? In Afghanistan, 40% of all marriages are forced arrangements. At least 33% of all women have been beaten, abused, or raped at least once. I have to wonder, how many people who fall into the second category are also part of the first? Though technically not slaves, these women are still enslaved, by virtue of their gender.

The fight for gender equality has also moved to challenge the general lack of respect towards anyone who isn’t part of the gender binary and doesn’t follow its prescribed roles. Keeping that in mind, I see homophobia and transphobia as proofs of present gender inequality. Cases of homophobia are well-documented, but transphobia, not so much. There are some well-publicized stories, though, such as those of of Tyra Hunter or the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Even simply by skimming Facebook discussion boards, I see people insisting that anyone besides men and women simply “can’t exist”. If it’s so difficult for some people to even realize and accept the fact that more than two genders exist, then how can we say that equality between all genders is present?

I guess the point of today’s post is to just remind myself and anyone else reading this that gender equality is not universal, nor is it even 100% present here in Montreal. It’s hard to be aware of everything all the time – or at least, it definitely is for me – but when it comes to gender inequality, I’d like to see it brought back to Page A1.

– Yun

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