Making the Future Female

Posts tagged “equality

EQUAL BUT DIFFERENT


DO YOU BELIEVE IN EQUALITY?

Nowadays we talk about ‘equality’ and ‘everyone being born equal’, but what exactly do we mean?

We speak of ‘equality of opportunity’ and ‘equality under the law’ but if we are unsure about the concept of ‘equality’ in the first place then these phrases don’t mean a whole lot.

People have said to me, “But humans are different, so how can they be equal?” or “We have to have difference – it’s just natural” and “I’d hate it if everybody was the same…”

These arguments are mistaking ‘Equality’ for ‘similarity’ or ‘sameness’. This kind of mistaken thinking is often a cover for discriminatory practices.

These arguments take the form of;

Women are different to men, so they shouldn’t earn as much as males,

or

Black folk are different to Europeans so it’s alright to enslave them.

But different doesn’t mean inferior.

Obviously there are differences between people, but there is no intrinsic reason why that should preclude equality.

Equality means everyone has the same right of respect from other individuals and to be treated fairly by social institutions.

Equality means we all have the same right to self-expression, self-determination and the chance to live and grow. Clearly there is a long way to go to achieve this.

What we are saying can be summed up by the phrase, “Equal but different…”

Click here to listen to the brilliant Au Pairs sing about this idea.

Our diversity is our strength, not an opportunity to discriminate against others.

Although the majority of us live in modern societies that claim to be democracies, there are plenty of old ideas still circulating that hark back to the pre-democratic systems that promoted inequality.

These hierarchical systems of social organisation are the biggest obstacles to developing truly modern societies where everyone has an equal stake and input into all aspects of life.

It’s worth briefly examining the ideas that were used to justify inequality in the past.

The Great Chain of Being 

(Latin; scala naturae, literally “ladder or stairway of nature”) was a concept derived from Plato and Aristotle and developed more fully in Neoplatonism. 

The Chain charts a fixed hierarchical structure of all matter and life. 

The chain starts from God and progresses downward to angels, demons, fallen and renegade angels, stars,            the Moon, kings, princes, nobles, men, wild animals, domesticated animals, trees, other plants, precious stones, precious metals, and other minerals.

Each link in the chain could be divided further into its component parts.

In medieval feudal society, the king was at the top, succeeded by the aristocratic lords, next came the merchants and then the peasants below them.

Solidifying the king’s position at the top of humanity’s social order is the doctrine of the Divine right of Kings.

In the family, the father was considered head of the household; below him came his wife; below her, their children.

This mistaken notion that some are more important than others underpins racist and sexist thinking, and that some nations can dominate other countries.

While there are small differences between people of various races, there is more divergence within each race than with other races.

However, there are marked differences between the sexes – this is called Sexual Dimorphism.

Men and women have different bodies statistically, meaning men tend to be taller and heavier with more muscle than women. However individuals may not display these attributes – some women are taller than some men for instance.

Crucially, modern research points to differences in brain organisation and processing systems, and I think this is really important.

Men and women think differently yet this isn’t taken into account in education and other aspects of life.

In my next post I will examine these differences in more detail.


Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)


 

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women.  Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm

The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:

  • to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment.  States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.  It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children.  States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women.

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.  They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.