Gender Equality

I Am A Feminist

We all remember Emma Watson’s speech in the UN in September 2014 when she presented the #HeForShe campaign (http://www.heforshe.org). She was the voice for millions of women who daily experience obstacles, discomforts, pressures and also violence to live in a macho society. It was a voice to bring to reason many people who unconsciously continued to proliferate this way of social organization where there are certain rights that are traditionally reserved for men.

I live in Argentina, a country where the numbers of violence against women are significant. In 2016 there were 327 cases of death due to femicide in all of Argentina. This figure shows that a woman died every 30 hours in Argentina for a case of contempt for the female gender. They are only the figures of the cases denounced and that they have proof that demonstrates the bond with femicide. The number would be higher if we took into account that not all cases are reported and not all femicides are declared. By the middle of this February the figure for 2017 highlighted a total of 57 femicides, implying that there is more than one case per day.

These numbers call to action. Argentina took the initiative, the Argentine women took it to the street putting a voice and a face to social patterns with which they did not agree. Although our society evolved in many respects, such as the law of equal marriage, however in other respects it remained stagnant. In 2015 the “collective cry against gender violence” is born, as the #NiUnaMenos (Not a woman less – http://niunamenos.com.ar) page says. This was born from a group of journalists, activists and artists who saw the need and they took the cause as their own to generate a collective campaign. A campaign that became successful because of the high degree of adherence of women and men across the country and even reached neighboring countries.

 

What is sexist violence?

I hear constantly many men take offense at hearing the use of “macho” to describe this type of violence, on the grounds that they are men who never offended or denigrated a woman. But do not we live in a society that for years was built under the domination of men, and why not say it, white men, who banished women and everyone they considered different from the spheres of power and decision-making areas? Do not we live in a society where women earn a lower salary than men despite having the same training and the same hierarchical position? Do not we live in a society where women are judged by how they dress, how they act and how are their sex lives?

The woman problem has always been a man problem.” – Simone de Beauvoir.

Being a feminist is often misunderstood as to be against the male gender. But that comes from a high level of ignorance. According to the Oxford dictionary Feminism is: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”, this means that women are equal to men, and do not want to subtract rights to men as many say. It is not a struggle of sexes, it is a question of gender ceasing to be seen as an impediment. As Emma Watson clearly explains:

For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes“.

But not only violence against women is seen in gender-based killings, it is seen in everyday actions. We live in a society that, although we fight continually and we rip our clothes to declare that we are open, that we do not discriminate and that we have tolerance, we are surrounded by prejudices. Violence does not necessarily occur in a physical form, there is symbolic violence, which is not minor, because it is the one that influences people and limits their way of acting in public spaces.

Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs.”- Emmeline Pankhurst.

Symbolic violence is the one that constricts freedoms in an indirect way, which generates that the person restrains from certain actions because of fear or to avoid problems. That violence that occurs every day, is the one that causes the greatest damage. It is transmitted in the family, in education, in the media and in public spaces. It is our job to diminish it and make it disappear.

For now, it is more what was gained in law than in fact.

 

Let’s play together

I remember going to the toy store with my parents for my 8th or 7th birthday to pick out my present. Those were the times when there was nothing as boring as getting clothes and there was nothing that could beat that trip to the toy store and those long aisles filled with fun.

I can’t recall if I wanted to be a marine biologist or a crazy scientist (special emphasis in the word “crazy”, because it was the most important part of the degree!), but I was looking for a microscope on that trip. Looking back I can see why may be the toy store wasn’t the best place to buy one! I finally found one, but of course it was a toy.

Disappointment didn’t last too long, since I kept looking around and I found it. The perfect gift. It was a box almost as big as me, and with big letters spelled: CHEMISTRY. When I bought it I felt so grown up, I could picture myself turning my house into an amazing lab. Each time I played with it, it felt like I did. The hours I spent with that chemistry set are countless.

What I didn’t see back then was that the box was decorated with different lab equipment, nothing else. Finally, on the side, the box specified the recommended age for the players. Leaving the specific age aside, the thing that stood out was the fact that there was a girl and a boy on the sides of the number.

As I grew up and started leaving my toys behind, I started paying more attention to the ads. The little kitchen, the register machine, the laundry set…the toy every girl wants for this Christmas. The workshop, the cars, the tools’ box, the little man of the house can’t have too many of those.

Sometimes, you don’t realize the effect that one can have on children. If you let them believe since that early age that they should play with something because it’s a “girl” or a “boy” toy, that kid grows up believing life is filled with “girl” and “boy” stuff and believing that decisions have to be made considering that, including of course, deciding which degree to pursue.

Usually school doesn’t help. If a girl does well on maths, it’s “impressive” and if a boy does poorly on literature, it’s “natural”. That’s because boys do better in science and girls do better in softer subjects. I heard that one between mothers so many times.

The world of science is seen as a man’s world, and if that was the case because it just happens, so be it. However, degrees in science are pictured as hard, intense, with a lot of manual skills. Therefore, boys are more encouraged to pursue them, since it’s risky for a girl.

We need to increase awareness on the impact we have on children and start thinking before speaking. If not, we are still raising adults that think that the natural place for a woman is the kitchen, while there’s nothing more charming than a man that cooks. We keep nurturing a society where is “amazing” that a woman pursues a degree in science. More important, we set what kind of aspirations kids should have.

If I ever have kids, I would like for them to grow up in a world where they don’t feel as a minority if they are the only woman in a class full of men or vice versa. If I ever have a daughter and she decides to study engineering as her mother, I would like for the first question she’s asked not to be: “Hey, it’s full of boys! When are you getting a boyfriend?”

Changes begin at our homes and we collaborate as a society. While playing they learn. Let’s learn to let them play.