Tom Chivers of The Telegraph wrote a post for International Women’s Day yesterday. But his title said that ‘starting tomorrow it will be 364 men’s days again’. I don’t agree, Tom. And neither does Hannah Rosin. But more from Hannah in a moment.
According to Chivers, recent research found that British women are “treated equally”, we declare, because “More than half of British women believe they are treated equally to men” and “four in 10 young women have never ‘personally experienced’ sexist remarks or sexist behaviour”. He points out that whilst over half of British women believe they are treated equally to men, 47% do not. But if gender inequality is all about how we feel, why weren’t any men asked how they feel about it? Surely that is an inequality in itself, assuming only women are the subjects of unfair treatment by men, and not the other way round?
But Chivers moves quickly in his article onto ‘harder’ statistics. He quotes the well-reported figure, from ’the Office for National Statistics, that even after overtime pay and maternity leave is taken into account, men in Britain earn more than 10 per cent more than women for doing the same jobs.’ But he adds in brackets , that ‘merfcifully that figure is declining every year’.
It also could already have been eradicated. It depends who you ask. According to Catherine Hakim, a scholar in the field of gender and employment, equality legislation has been successful and:
‘these demands [by feminists] for further change rest on faulty assumptions and outdated or partial evidence. For the latest academic research and cross-national comparative studies show that most of the theories and ideas built up around gender equality in the last few decades are wrong’. http://www.cps.org.uk/cps_catalog/Feminist%20Myths%20and%20Magic%20Medicine.pdf
So quoting isolated statistics about average pay of men and women, for example, does not give the whole picture about gender inequalities in work? That makes sense to me.
I have conducted doctorate research into gender and work in the creative sector which backs up Hakim’s claims. I found that women and men presented their approach to work and particularly the ‘work-life balance’ in different ways. For example, women with children made it clear that they either could not participate fully in the long hours culture of the creative sector, including after hours social networking and unpaid overtime, or they simply did not want to. Discriminating against women for having children is one thing; women actually choosing to behave differently at work due to their childcare commitments is another. If women want complete ‘equality’ in the workplace they may have to give up their ‘status’ as the chief care giver at home.
The Gender Pay Gap ignores the different fortunes of men and women in different sectors. If we go back to Hannah Rosin, and her talk at the TED conference I have posted above, she makes it clear that in some areas of industry, in America and other ‘Western’ countries, women are outperforming men at all levels. The sectors which are growing fastest, she says, are mainly women dominated, so women are not only becoming equal to men economically, but over-taking them.
I don’t cite these examples to prove that gender inequality does not exist. Far from it. But rather to show that this simple binary between ‘men’ and ‘women’ that always casts women as a group in the role of ‘victims’ of inequality, just does not wash in 2011. I think issues such as social background and education are far more significant to our career prospects than what we may or may not have dangling between our legs.
But Tom Chivers seems determined to feel sorry for me as a woman, and as a non-feminist woman in particular: ‘What’s particularly sad’ he says ’is that only one in five British women nowadays describe themselves as “feminists”’. Maybe that is because many women do not think they are at a disadvantage to men socially or economically? According to Chivers who has er Googled it, thefreedictionary.com defines feminism as “Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”. But I don’t believe that social, political, or economic equality should be measured along the line of ‘sex’. I think it is the gender binary that oppresses men, women and those who identify as neither, more than any ‘patriarchal’ system. I also think that this definition does not go anywhere near to describing what feminism actually is in action. In my view many feminists seem to feel that women are superior to men in a lot of ways. They certainly enjoy laying all the blame for their own troubles at men’s doors. This comment on an IWD discussion online yesterday from a feminist to ‘men’ , though extreme in its expression, is not uncommon in its sentiment:
‘admit that you’re just a derailing bunch of shitsucks whose dick-shrinking terror of women is such that you can’t even read about the horrific things women can go through and still be better people than you’.
Another example of ‘feminism in action’ I have found especially in online discussions, is that when challenged, feminists just cannot engage in grown-up debate. I am currently ‘blocked’ from communicating either on Twitter or on their blogs, with such eminent feminist activists as Suzanne Moore, Laurie Penny, Melissa McEwan, Clarisse Thorn, Kate Smurthwaite, Johann Hari, Steven Baxter, Sarah Ditum, Dawn Foster and Lisa Ansell.
Tom goes on to list some gender inequalities across the world, but I don’t think he has done much research into international poverty and development. It is easy to say women ‘suffer more’ and to find statistics to back that up. But in a world where people are dying of starvation, being forced into combat, not getting an education, being exploited in sweatshops, being murdered by family members or rival gangs, suffering unnecessarily from preventable diseases, who are we in the affluent ‘west’ to start saying women and girls suffer more across the globe than boys and men? I find that white middle class women in the UK use this kind of argument to augment their own ‘victim status’ compared to men, not out of real compassion and knowledge of international politics and social welfare. The EQUALS video, that Chivers posted on his Telegraph piece, featuring Daniel Craig, I think is an example of this ‘appropriation’ of victim status by women (such as Judy Dench!) who do not have any experience of the kind of levels of suffering they use in their berating of men.
Chivers ends his article by saying: ‘It’s a shame that we need to have a single day a year to remind us that women are the equals of men. But, for the other 364* days, people do seem to forget’.
Oh, I don’t think so Tom. Go round to Hannah Rosin’s house, join me in my discussions with feminists online, show us a webcam recording of you and your girlfriend in conversation, read The Guardian, listen to Radio Four. I think you will find that the other 364 days of the year are very much women’s days too…
With thanks to Mark Simpson for listening and saying what I was thinking.