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Why Gender Equality Is So Important

15/04/2016 12:14 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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At a recent dinner with friends, the topic of conversation turned to Donald Trump and his misogynistic vitriol on the topic of abortion. He recently commented (and later retracted) that any woman who has an illegal abortion should be punished. I'm not 100 percent sure what he meant by punished. Is it the latex mask, whips and chains kind of punishment he seeks? Or jail? Shall we just herd these scarlet women up and throw them in a cell to contemplate their crime? Either option is as ridiculous as his claim.

After receiving enormous backlash over his comments, Trump back-peddled, stating that he was "pro-life" and claimed that he had never dated a woman who had had an abortion, as if it was normal banter between a couple over a glass of chardonnay on a Friday night. But beneath the ineptitude and moral chaos of Trump's sentiments lies a much greater problem. Some men still believe that it is their right to make decisions on behalf of women, therefore devaluing their human rights.

Discrimination against women is alive and well, and the road to equality between the sexes continues to be a bumpy one. There is a constant stream of stories showing gender disparities both in the work place and home, and I think it is time that men stood up and became part of the fight to abolish the binary between the genders.

It is not the job of a woman to convince a male of the importance of gender equality; men should be responsible for their own misogyny and that of other men.

As I was voicing my somewhat-feminist views at dinner, I was surprised by the response of the men at the table. Whilst their wives and partners were all too aware of the point I was making, they seemed shocked. How is it that this dynamic can be so obvious to women yet fly under the radar of men's consciousness? Are they not paying attention to misogyny or are they ignoring it?

The facts remain:

  • Across Australia, women continue to be significantly under-represented in parliament and executive government, comprising less than one-third of all parliamentarians and one-fifth of all ministers.
  • Women remain significantly underrepresented on boards and at senior management level. In 2010, only 8.4 percent of directors of the largest 200 publicly listed companies in Australia and 33.4 percent of government boards were women.
  • Women working full time in Australia earn, on average, 17.5 percent less than men
  • According to a survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission, 49 percent of Australian women experience discrimination during pregnancy and when returning to work.
  • In 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 14.8 percent of women experienced sexual harassment at some point in the year, compared to 6.6 percent of men.

These disparities are just a few on the topic of inequality and, as a mother of daughters, they make me angry because they make no sense.

Being a feminist has become synonymous with man hating and bra burning, but the true essence of being a feminist is to promote choice. If a woman chooses to become a lawyer, she should be given the same opportunity as a man and receive the same salary. If a woman chooses to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, she should be given the freedom to do so. Similarly, if a man chooses to be a stay-at-home Dad, this is his right. The fight for gender equality benefits both men and women. As Emma Watson said in her address to the United Nations: "It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals."

Mao Zedong once said, "women hold up half the sky," acknowledging the importance of women in the growth of society. In order to have a change, we need all men to recognise this and to advocate for equality. We need to open the conversation without fear of retribution because oppression for one is oppression for all. A society cannot operate to its full potential when half of its members do not have an equal voice.

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