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"Coping with the F word and gender equality"
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"Coping with the F word and gender equality"

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Jake ElsonFeminism is a concept that has become divisive, writes Jake Elson, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Bunbury in Australia, who argues the need to support feminism that includes gender equality.

In social circles across the world, feminism has become a dirty word. Once the banner for the push for equality, many now view it erroneously as an ideology of hate.

Former Harry Potter star Emma Watson wants to change this perception. She believes that bringing men to the discussion table will bring about gender equality in a better and more productive manner than previous tactics which have sadly become associated with feminism. Truth be told, it may very well work.

Though some may deny it, we still are failing to admit that we are an unequal society. In Western nations such as my own Australia, we still have issues with the glass ceiling – the informal barrier that keeps women from many of the highest positions in the workforce. There is still a gender pay gap – 17 per cent in Australia, 21 per cent in the UK. Women are still sexualised in the media, treated as an object rather than a human being. In some countries it is worse. Women are strongly discouraged from education, even savagely attacked, as was the case with Malala Yousafzai, just for wanting an education. Why? Because even in Western countries, despite the actions of governments, there is an ingrained attitude that there are differences between men and women; that men are superior, that both must conform to certain stereotypes.

That attitude is absolutely wrong and outdated. Sadly, it still exists. Even more disheartening is the fact that feminism is losing traction. There are many reasons for this, but one has to question those radicals who hijacked the feminism brand as an excuse for their own bigotry and sexism. From someone who truly believes in gender equality, they aren’t feminists. Why? Because they have refused to challenge these attitudes. Rather, they acknowledge their existence, and use it as an excuse to attack men. Such a tactic has turned a movement toward equality into a struggle between factions.

That’s not to say men are not absolved of any blame. The old school traditionalist view still permeates. One can remember several years back when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister. Shock jock Alan Jones was chastised for accusing Ms Gillard of ‘destroying the joint’. Some of his supporters may argue he was addressing the former PM’s political ideology, but never less it was a highly unprofessional remark. Who can also remember the carbon tax protest in front of Parliament House in Canberra, with that infamous poster of which for decency should not be repeated? These are to name just a few.

These negative attitudes only increase and prolong the anguish and suffering of anyone wanting to see real equality. Ms Watson, in challenging this negativity, hopes to see it eradicated. In her address to the UN in September last year, she acknowledged attitudes that are harmful to both men and women alike: girls giving up sport in years 9 and 10 due to a fear of muscularity countering social attitudes toward beauty, or not speaking their mind because it was ‘unattractive’, and young men refusing to talk about their feelings because it was supposedly ‘unmanly’. These are serious issues that keep men and women imprisoned in an incorrect viewpoint that stifles the creativity, well-being and merit of every individual.

Ms Watson is challenging that viewpoint. She hopes that by acknowledging both men and women have problems as a result of an archaic social belief, both men and women can work together in creating an equal and just society. It is a chance for the fall of a society based on constructs of gender, which would be replaced by a society based on merit and the cherishing of individuality.

After centuries of a male-dominated society, it is time for women to be given the right to be treated as equals. However, to achieve this, we must be willing to work as one. Attacking one another on the basis of gender and past happenings will not only maintain the current structure, but also continue the suffering of many men and women. Furthermore, we must be comfortable with the aims of feminism. It’s not a Mugabethean act of revenge. It is instead aiming for – as Pierre Trudeau would call it – a just society. Progress has been made over the last 150 years towards equality; we must continue full steam ahead toward that goal.
photo credit: DSCN0459 via photopin (license)

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About me:

I am a history buff, but also am into soccer. I referee soccer, and would like to go FIFA one day.  I’m currently studying politics and international relations at Edith Cowan University. My aim is to become a police officer in Western Australia, and I would like to be Prime Minister one day.

I am a Conservative and a Monarchist, and believe in the role of the Commonwealth as a tool for good.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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