So, imagine you're running a 100-meter track race. You and your competitors have trained for the same amount of time, and you're all at similar levels of fitness, height and body proportions.
Your competitor, a male, has a nice pair of spiked track shoes that fit him perfectly. You have shoes that are too small, barely wearable and don't even have spikes. If you know anything about short-distance track — and my personal experience comes from running to the taco truck — then you know that every second counts.
And having the proper shoes gives the runner a push that makes them faster from the start. Still, race coordinators and those watching the race expect each runner to perform to the best of their ability.
This is what inequality looks like. The race represents success, and everyone is racing for it, but not everyone is given the right shoes for success.
Now, in order for everyone to do the best they can, we must acknowledge that the race isn't fair from the starting block. The hurdles of gender inequality are still there, and they lead to harmful consequences. We need to discuss the harmful effects of gender inequality and how they impact the race.
Typically, when people think of women being oppressed, they think of women being locked in their homes, or being beaten, in a country that's all the way in the other side of the world. Or, they think of American women in the early 20th century, fighting for the simple right to vote.
And while there are countries in the world that do allow domestic violence and more extreme methods of oppression to occur, gender inequality still exists for women in First World countries, such as the United States. This oppression occurs from an economic, political and social standpoint.
In fact, according to the New York Times, Google's male employees are paid on average $55,900 at the first level of pay, whereas women of that same level make an average of $40,300. And these are statistics from 2017, by the way. At this level, bonuses for men are twice as high as for women — which is roughly a $3,600 difference.
The unequal pay distribution at Google is consistent through all six levels of payment ranks. In fact, female workers sued Google because of the severity of the situation. Google is essentially being the sports broadcaster news station for the gold medalists, giving the male praise for his performance, while Gabby Douglas gets less coverage and is chastised for her hair not being well done, despite performing just as well as the male.
This seems bad enough, right? Well, trust me, it gets worse. Imagine not being white.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, white women earn roughly 81 percent of a white man's dollar, working the same amount of hours in the same job position. Black women earn roughly 65 percent of a white man's dollar, and Hispanic women earn nearly half of a white man's dollar.
Numbers don't lie, and the pay gap is a clear indicator that gender inequality is still very prevalent.
In fact, the societal aspects of gender inequality are a much larger topic to cover because there's a multitude of problems that different types of women experience — for example, the sexualization of women in the media, including athletes whose relationship status, body and emotions are priorities in terms of what gets coverage according to sports ethics. This diminishes their actual athletic achievements and makes them appear inferior to male athletes.
And when their achievements are being recognized, it's typically talked about in terms of how they are the best female athlete, rather than just the best athlete.
Sexualization of women, however, is even more present in women of color. Just walk into any Halloween store, and you'll see plenty of " Sexy Pocahontas," "Sexy Geisha" and even "Sexy Mexican Shooter" costumes — and no, that last one wasn't a made up name. That was a legitimate name for a "Latina" woman costume from a company called Wonder Costumes.
It's funny how women's costumes and track uniforms are both made to be relatively "sexy."
Women in the LGBTQ+ spectrum also face sexualizaton more so than straight women. They're oftentimes fetishized, and expectations on how they present themselves become oddly specific. For example, feminine-presenting lesbians and bisexuals aren't taken seriously by the LGBTQ+ community and constantly have to "prove their sexuality" because they don't " look queer." Also, transgendered women are subjected to more harassment than cisgendered women statistically.
And don't get me started on the lack of women in U.S. government office. Only 21 women serve in the U.S Senate, and only 84 serve in the US House of Representatives. Sure, women can drive and vote in the United States, but this does not mean we've got it all in terms of equality. In fact, those are the mere beginnings towards a true and fair race.
So, we know that women actually face legitimate issues and that, in this race to success, they are not only less equipped but are varying in terms of how much less equipped they are compared to their male counterparts.
But why does this matter? So firstly, with harmful stereotypes of women being so deeply ingrained in society, women are more susceptible to mental illness, body dysmorphia and increasing suicide rates. CNN reports show that, for white women, there has been a 68 percent increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2016 and an 89 percent increase for native women. My best friend nearly took her own life because of the outside pressures of her school and family.
Also, with implications that women are not logical or productive, women are being discouraged to go into STEM fields, despite being the ones to receive more college education than men. Only 29 percent of women do choose to go into STEM fields, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
But it's not just STEM jobs that women are discouraged from. It also extends to careers in law and politics. With fewer women represented in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, that means all laws relating to women's healthcare, maternity leave and pay gap are completely decided by men.
Now when I say this, I'm not saying men are out to destroy women. But many of them do not see such issues as important because they do not affect them.
And as I'm sure some may be wondering, "What about the men? What about the #meninists? Am I right?"
Well, men, despite having privileges, actually do suffer from gender inequality as well. With feminine traits being associated with inferiority, men are expected to be strong, emotionless, logical and shallow — which are all extremely harmful to a man's emotional development and might actually cause him to be more aggressive and abusive in nature.
Essentially, you're giving men all of this nice racing equipment while also holding them at gunpoint, pressuring them to win.
In reality, we've set up a completely rigged race for success, one that only a small number of people can win. So, what can we do about this? Well, let's pull out "Becca's Guide To Train Away the Patriarchy."
Frankly, the most important thing we all must do is to stop putting adjectives such as intelligent, bold and assertive into gendered boxes. On the other hand, being emotional, caring and empathetic should also not be categorized as traits meant for one gender or the other. It's clearly harmful on both sides and is as redundant as only allowing pink tracksuits for girls and blue tracksuits for boys.
Secondly, educators and adults, in general, need to make it clear that political careers, business careers and STEM fields are not just for men, but for women as well. They need to encourage girls to explore those fields. Increased representation in these fields will not only help the achieve the first step, but it will also allow for policies to be made with both female and male perspectives taken into account.
It will allow women to have the same choices as men in how they want to live their lives.
And lastly, sexual education needs to emphasize the harmful effects of the sexualizing of women — including how that contributes to sex crimes, such as college rapes.
The race to success is certainly important, and running a race takes a lot of training. However, having a good pair of spikes easily makes the difference in your performance.
So, making sure everyone has the same running shoes is important to having a fair race to success. By acknowledging the injustices, how they are affecting people and, of course, allowing people to live how they want, we can ensure that people of all genders are treated equally.
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