Gender equality is described as the perception that both men and women should get the same treatment devoid of discrimination based on sex. Gender equality is also referred to as gender egalitarianism, sex equality, equality of the genders, and sexual equality. To enforce this balance, the United Nations established a cause known as the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" that seeks to create equality in social settings, democratic movements and at work. In addition, this organization is seeking to enshrine this notion in the laws of the world. To avoid imminent problems, this law will exclude other genders (apart from male and female) that are not explicitly defined. The topic of right involves two sides: men’s rights as well as women’s rights. As a result, this paper will look at the history of gender equality, offer arguments from the perspective of both male and female sexes, and, finally, come up with recommendations on how best to deal with the recurring tensions between the two genders. As it is noted, the world needs a mixture of the two to sustain continued development.
Gender equality is a subject that has lingered for decades now. Many women have stood up to lament the oppression that they face in their households, public places, and even in religious settings. One of the earliest advocates of this movement was Christine de Pizan who highlighted the plight of the oppressed women in her book The Book of the City of Ladies published in 1405. According to her account, she notes that oppression of women is a result of irrational prejudice underlining several developments in the society mostly crafted by women. There have been several female groups formed to fight this struggle. Some of them are listed below.
- The Shakers
The Shakers were a zealous group that practiced seclusion of genders and stringent celibacy. They were the initial practitioners of equality. They separated from a Quaker community in England’s northwest before arriving to America in 1774. In their first years in America, Joseph Meacham, the group’s key minister, made a disclosure that the genders should be treated similarly. As a result, he took in a woman minister as his equal. Her name was Lucy Wright. Jointly, they reassembled the movement to make sexes equal. The two introduced guidance groups where elders and “eldresses” were partnered together to act as the chaperons in the transcendent health of the congregation for both males and females. In addition, each deacon was paired with a “deaconess”. The group was more than a sweeping religious cult on the peripheries of the American society, as it practically put equality of both genders into practice. It showed that it was possible to integrate both sexes together and achieve great success.
- The Suffrage Movement
This was another important group that fought for the privileges of women to vote and be elected to important seats in the National elections throughout the United States in the 19th century. During this era, the rights of women to assets also experienced a far-reaching change, principally in relation to their marital standing. All this happened before the World War II. After the war, a more sophisticated movement for gender parity was established based on the rights of women and feminism. The core agenda was that of the rights of women in regards to men. The crusade backed the identical treatment of both sexes.
Since then a lot of international and domestic groups, organizations as well as individuals have stood up for the equal treatment of women in the society. Consequently, this has led to the mass production of literary materials that passed the same message. In the past centuries, books were the major forms of mass communication used to protest, give ideologies, or inform the public. Hence, they became an integral part of the feminist movement. In this paper, some of the arguments brought forward by various authors about gender equality will be highlighted.
First, the work of Armstrong, Hamilton, and Sweeney, who majorly tackled the issue of sexual harassment in the higher institutions of learning, will be addressed. In their book Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape, the three researchers used a 1997 National Institute of Justice research to come up with the conclusion that:
Between one-fifth and one-quarter of women are the victims of complete or attempted rape while in college. College women are at a greater risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than women in the general population or a comparable age group. (Armstrong, Hamilton, and Sweeney 1)
The majority of this cases that occur in colleges and other higher learning institutions are influenced by the excessive uptake of alcoholic beverages and other drugs by the perpetrator, the victim, or both (Armstrong, Hamilton, and Sweeney 1). The above observations are an excellent indication of the sexual exploitation suffered by women in these institutions. These authors wonder why it is so hard for women to feel safe in the places that should be shielding them from these heinous acts despite massive efforts to prevent them.
In their further research, they conclude that continued sexual assault can be attributed to the replication of gender inequality in the modern society. On a personal note, I think that it is not fair for any person from either gender to be coerced, tricked or forced into sexual activity. It is solely up to the individual to decide when, where, and how to indulge in this activity. As a result, such inequality is highlighted by various groups fighting harassment and assault directed towards women. Therefore, the acts of rape and other sexual assault instances are clear indications of the perception of superiority among the male gender. They feel domineering and controlling towards women and use the force to attain sexual favors (Kitchen et al. 1834). To conclude this argument, the authors assert that:
We demonstrate that sexual assault is a predictable outcome of a synergistic intersection of both gendered and seemingly gender neutral processes operating at individual, organizational, and interactional levels. The concentration of homogenous students with expectations of partying fosters the development of sexualized peer cultures organized around status. Residential arrangements intensify students’ desires to party in male-dominated fraternities.
Another instance of gender inequality is observed in the Fraternity Little Sisters organizations (Stombler). These organizations offer insights into how women are treated with respect to leadership seat allocations and sexual harassment by being “commodified” and objectified (Stombler and Martin). This movement of undergraduate women is connected to the men’s social fraternity. According to Stombler, the women to join these social movements are selected by men based on sociability and beauty after the process designed after the fraternity men’s rush. The rushees attend merrymaking events or meetings for some days, and, if chosen, they go through an inductee period and are afterwards introduced as quasi-members of the fraternity (Stombler and Martin). Those women who join the movement say that they are doing so to make friends, attend parties, meet men, participate in fun activities, and to feel like a fellow in a campus “family” (Stombler).
The members of these groups often maintain high status in the college and also exhibit openly their respect and affection towards females in their little sister platform. Male members are known to dominate most top positions in the administration of student government, and they leave the women affiliated as little sisters to associate with them for small favors like those of attending parties (Slombler and Padavic). This precedence shows the undermining of women in the student governments as well. Thus, there is male domination in almost all positions. At particular times, the groups have become notorious for propagating gang-style violence and fraternity rape by male members like those witnessed in the 1980s (Stombler). As a result, many universities went on to disband these organizations. In addition, many women have come together to fight this kind of organizations that purport to support them only to turn against them (Stombler).
A recent study carried out indicated that sexual objectification is a chief process in upholding male supremacy over women (Stombler). The researcher observes that men expect women to titillate them even when the existing circumstances are not overtly sexual. They adversely support women who fail to exhibit their sexuality in a way that thrills them (Stombler and Martin). As a result, this case sets precedence for a structurally induced sense of dependency and powerlessness. Furthermore, it makes women consent with their sexual objectification. In fact, some females appear to be satisfied with the object character and go ahead to promote it further in their friends’ mindsets. This process has been termed as “feminine narcissism”, where women who are treated as objects transform and convert into sex symbols adopting the attitudes of men (Stombler).
On his part, Bjarnegard talks of the male dominance in the political scene. He notes that one of the most shocking sequences of inequality in power sharing is that of men being politically overrepresented ubiquitously in the world. This male domination in the parliaments has been observed in several countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have gone to the extremes of allowing only male legislators (MPs) to be elected to the office. In addition, countries where equality is perceived to have been achieved, like Rwanda and Sweden, still have the majority of influential positions allocated to men. In many countries, the percentage of male congress representatives is as high as 81 % (Bjarnegard 43).
However, in favor of his argument, he notes that:
The aspiration to be in authority is one of the aphorisms of political life for men. Male unwillingness to hand over power is, therefore, lucid and partly excusable, since practices that conserve and reproduce male dominance are institutionalized and taken for granted in all spheres of society. Instead of demonizing these male practices by viewing them as patriarchal conspiracies, it is possible to argue that they are better understood as social structures that are, in large part, yet to be unveiled and fully comprehended (Bjarnegard).
In the western societies, women evidently earn lower incomes on average than their men counterparts. The gender wage gap has been in existence for many decades, though there have been some essential changes over a period. This disparity in earnings between genders is extensively discussed by Blau in her book Gender, Inequality, and Wages. The book also highlights the advances made by women in the job market as well as characteristics of other forms of gender imbalances in the modern society. She notes that today there exists serious labor segregation and discrimination against women throughout the world (Blau). In particular, she observes that these forms of inequality are highly prevalent in the United States, which have one of the largest population of working women (Blau). Instead of decreasing, the wage gap is constantly on the rise each year (Blau). This result may be attributed to the male dominance in the job market (Blau). Furthermore, men occupy almost all the top positions and, therefore, influence many decisions pertaining to wages and other vital issues in the labor. However, over the years, women have continued to gain momentum in their quest for gender parity. Today they are holders of important and influential positions on top of organizations. Organizations like Yahoo, the World Bank, and other internationally recognized institutions have increased the number of females occupying top positions (Blau).
Personally, I think this is a good precedence for both genders. The rise of feminism should not be seen as a threat to male dominance, but rather as a supplement to their authority. With the new norms in the society, especially the structure of our households, both sexes play great roles in their sustenance. Due to the current economic hardships, it is important for both men and women to work to fend for their families. In the end, this will strengthen their bonds and family units. Furthermore, the outcome is not based on gender, but on the ability to deliver expected results. If women take up leadership and deliver the results, then they should be allowed to do so.
In conclusion, it is clear that gender inequality has emerged as a rampant issue in the society despite various efforts to curb and mitigate it. Women have become hindrances as much as their counterparts – men, since they have betrayed each other in achieving gender equality. Therefore, there is a need to highlight strategies that will assist in mitigating the issue. Each group should stop being selfish and concentrate on establishing proper structures that will mutually benefit both parties. As observed, women have also shown their mettle when it comes to offering active leadership in the society, as evidenced in Germany, which is led by a female prime minister. As observed in the above arguments, men have upheld dominance over women, and mutual understanding needs to be achieved. Modern societies are built on shared responsibilities and cooperation. If this approach is adhered to, then the important progress will be realized in almost all the economies worldwide.