A More Holistic View of Gender Equality
1. Setting the Stage
In almost every society across the world, traditional gender roles greatly privilege men, often at the expense of women. Continual reinforcement of rigid gender norms deprives women of rights, power, and resources. This in turn leads to women having a lower economic status, less opportunity for education, poor health care, and greater exposure to gender-based violence. Hence, most programs that promote gender equality focus on empowering and directly working with women. Should this idea be so limited?
2. The Present Situation
Gender equity seeks to establish fairness in the distribution of opportunity, responsibility, and benefits available to men and women. Gender equality is the equal treatment of women and men in law and policy, as well as equal access to resources within families, communities, and society.
Gender equity is the means; gender equality is the result.
Women are not the only ones harmed by the inequity of traditional gender norms; transgender individuals and men suffer negative consequences as well.
Just as a girl may be forced to leave school because her family doesn’t believe women need to be educated, a man may engage in unsafe sex because he believes “real men” don’t use condoms.
The transformation of traditional gender roles is an essential element to the reduction of their damage. Transgender persons —who transgress accepted notions of both masculinity and femininity, face high levels of discrimination — are at greater risk for violence, and are less able to access health services such as reproductive health care.
Taking the time to understand and appreciate all gender identities is a crucial component of widespread reform.
3. Going Forward
Media coverage continues to become increasingly multi-dimensional, reflecting our acceptance of diverse communities. All that’s missing is the grassroots approach. Many organizations advocate for education, pushing seminars and powerpoints as a way to promote awareness. I believe this method dulls the issue and stifles necessary conversation.
Rather, let us actively engage with persecuted individuals and communities. Let us transform distant images on our television screens into friends and colleagues.
Immersing ourselves in the lifestyles of those we wish to understand is the only way to determine the gravity of their challenges.