The Illusion of Equality? – Lecture on Feminism by Vivienne Cherry – 27/11/12

Note: Since researching, some of the lecture notes in the above scans are wrong, presumably I misheard them.

Also, I am aware that, as an essay, this is pretty poorly structured. However, this is not an essay, merely a collection of thoughts and research after a lecture.

Many Victorian scientists held the viewpoint that women were less smart than men. Their brains were smaller, so therefore less intelligent. However, it has since been proven that size has nothing to do with intelligence.

(This second link has some good examples of Victorian scientists who claimed to have proven that women were inferior. However, this article does have a religious bias, especially against evolution theories.)

In Britain, during and between World War I & II, women were encouraged to work (for less pay than men) and allowed to vote (following parts of the U.S, New Zealand & Australia). At first it was only for those over 30 and meeting certain requirements, but was later changed in 1928 to women over 21.

However, after the wars, soldiers returned to the workplace, so women were encouraged to return to their homes and let the men do their jobs. However, several women pursued work and campaigned for equal pay, which was finally granted in 1970 with the equal pay act.

Many would like to believe that that’s where it ended, after close to 140 years of work sexism was finally banished and women are now equal in society. Oh sure, there are a few bad apples who beat up women that you hear about, bogeymen who exist in other countries where they’re not open minded & don’t believe in equality.

Not so.

For one thing, equality is more than simply being paid the same (and even then “The gender pay gap (i.e. the difference between men’s and women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings) based on median gross hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time employees decreased to 9.6% from 10.5% in 2011.”). Gender equality is also about being treated the same, not being stereotyped, objectified or marginalised simply because of your gender. We can look at advertising not so long ago in the mid-20th century and see that it’s pretty clear how many women were seen in society.

Image source & for more examples of sexist advertising: http://planetoddity.com/shocking-sexism-vintage-ads/

Stereotypes were encouraged and women told to know their place, that they were inferior to men, men who knew better than them, were better suited to work and provide, could protect them and knew what was best for them. This way of thinking can be seen as the major cause for inequality amongst men and women; the gender pay gap and the laws that prevented them from working in many jobs were just symptoms, not causes of sexism; while addressing them is important and helps improve conditions for many women, it does not solve the problem, which is the attitude towards women. Today, this still persists, as we can see from adverts just last year:

Image source & for more examples of sexist advertising: http://www.businessinsider.com/these-modern-ads-are-even-more-sexist-than-their-mad-men-era-counterparts-2012-4?op=1

In the 90’s, there came the idea of ‘Girl Power’. Popularised by the Spice Girls, this was seen as a statement of empowerment. However, this statement does very little to empower anything. The main problem is that it became adopted by marketing and is used to sell products which are actually all about being submissive and keeping to traditional gender roles, making them believe that they should be pretty just to please men, they’re too frail to do heavy work, they’re not smart enough to be competent at something as complicated as maths or science and while boys can have any favourite colour (so long as it’s masculine), all girls MUST like the colour pink because everyone knows it. And the worst part is, most of the time it’s purely due to ignorance. It’s a sad thing, but the way our society works is that because everyone KNOWS these things, they must be true! Oh, sure, the rule doesn’t apply to most of the girls you or I know, but it does fit one or two of them, so I guess that proves it. The others must be exceptions to the rule, so therefore it’s fine to assume that a majority of ‘normal’ women out there must follow these rules.


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