By Kelly Norways
Today I came across this video on my Facebook timeline and was shocked to see that several people I know had liked it. Again and again you see the same recycled arguments for why western women don’t have the right to complain about remaining gender inequalities when things have become so much better for women in the past few centuries and women in other countries have it so much worse.
I find it particularly grating watching another woman try to defend such an illogical argument. Here I’ll quickly break down some of the nonsense which is taken at face value by fellow Facebook users. For those who have liked the video and don’t know Liz Wheeler, she is a conservative Midwestern presenter who also supports Trump’s travel ban and is anti-abortion.
In this article I will focus only on American statistics here to prove that women don’t have full equality without even considering the even worse non-western examples mentioned in the video.
- Protests are not the same as laziness and skiving work because you feel like it. The message to young girls will not be ‘missing work is an acceptable way to go about life’ if women take one day to show the impact they have on the workforce. When doctors, teachers, or rail workers strike, though it is inconvenient we do not condemn them for being lazy or warn that the workforce doesn’t need them anyway. The movement also gave women the option of boycotts and wearing red to show support if they couldn’t afford to miss work.
- You can’t tell women they are paid less because of the ‘choices in their lives and careers’ and simultaneously expect women to raise families via unequal parental leave. Given that most American men are entitled to no paternity leave this leaves little option for women who cannot afford childcare. Hardly a career choice and more of a necessity.
- American women earn 80% of men’s average earnings and only 4.2% of CEOs in America’s 500 biggest companies are women… do you honestly think this is due to lack of talent or dedication? Clearly there is a deeper issue than ‘you just need to try a bit harder,’ even if this is bound up with attitudes to what women are capable of rather than active discrimination.
- Just because legislation is in place doesn’t mean it is put into practice or undermined by attitudes. Although it is illegal for men and women to be paid differently for the same work, it still happens and the attitude ‘you should be grateful to have your job’ doesn’t help here. In fact, inequality can be harder to overcome when people claim real equality is legally protected and therefore you have no grounds to complain. Writing on paper doesn’t mean issues have disappeared.
- The argument that society can operate without women is just wrong – they currently make up 46.8% of the American labour force
- Saying that other women in the world have it worse is irrelevant. There will always be graver, more sinister cases of sexism to consider but this doesn’t make the Western woman any less entitled to pursue full equality.
- Birth control is important. How can you simultaneously argue that women’s ‘priorities’ justify them getting paid less and also reduce their ability to prevent pregnancy and consequent responsibilities by denying them abortions? These can force women to leave work and be denied promotions when they return.
- Trump has had a negative effect on gender relations already. The damage of one of the most high powered men being able to get away with blatant sexism (See ‘grab them by the pussy’) shouldn’t be underestimated. The former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence thinks that Trump’s rhetoric could lead to increased violence against women. One woman reported being sexually assaulted by a man wearing a Donald Trump hat. (See Metro 10th November 2016). Trump sanitises sexual assault and reinforces stigma.
- I don’t like the rhetoric. ‘Hormonal emotional brats’ sounds like the kind of appeals you would hear in Victorian England against women fighting for the vote. Too emotionally unstable to think rationally or be taken seriously. We all have hormones, Liz, and in the same situation men would be pretty pissed off too.
- How dare you complain about privileged females when you totally embody this yourself – you can remove yourself from pay gap issues because you are in a high paid job and can live comfortably. I’d like you to know that in the comments section men have written that they only watch you because you’re pretty… I’d love if it wasn’t the case but what does that say about the way society selects women for your kind of job? How does that sit with your argument that women can easily do as well as men just by working for it? As you said yourself you’re young and you have a good job – you haven’t had to make decisions about family yet and most likely will be able to afford for someone else to look after your future kids if you ever do have them – a choice many women simply don’t have. Maybe you’ll think differently when you get a few wrinkles and are suddenly less interesting to the male audience you pander to in this video.
Although arguing that women create a role for themselves as victims might seem appealing, the truth is that there are remaining inequalities. Yes we have come a long way but don’t tell me as a privileged Western woman this binds me to accept the status quo.
Photograph: Gage Skidmore via Flickr and Creative Commons