This conversation is closed.

How do we achieve gender equality?

I was look at a question on TED earlier today about the violent transfer of power, it turned into a debate about gender equality. So I decided to make a conversation where that actually fits. My questions are: What is gender equality? What do we need to do to reach gender equality? How will we reach it? I hope this generates some interesting ideas, answers, and discussions.

Closing Statement from Erin Tuncan

Thank you all for your opinions and comments! I think we all learned something. There still isn't an answer yet, not that I expected there to be, but I believe that talks, like this one, are going to lead to the answer or answers. I may open this question again, so keep an eye out! Thanks again!

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    Feb 13 2012: I'm not sure I entirely understand the need for 'across the board' gender equality. I don't think it can ever exist. If females want to be the same as males, we would have to manipulate and distort biological (and possibly psychological) certainties to the point where we would all have to become hermaphrodites. It is clearly absurd. It offends the evolutionary trajectory we have taken.

    In my opinion, feminism is just as damaging and divisive as the macho society it seeks to change. All it does is to further enhance the gaping gulf between the two sexes.

    Instead of equality, I propose mutual respect. Just accept that we are different, and that women do certain things far better than men - and men do certain other things better than women. It is the preservation of difference that makes us flourish as a species. It makes us intelligent. It makes us sexual.
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      Feb 13 2012: What makes you believe females want to be the same as males?
      Do you think feminism brought nothing good?
      'We are different, and women do certain things far better than men - and men do certain other things better than women' - does that mean both can't be good at something one?
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        Feb 13 2012: Julija, if you wanted to change something oppressive - something deliberately inflammatory, debasing and disempowering, how (in general terms, rather than specific) would you set about changing it?

        Would you attack it from the standpoint of polarized opposition to the original problem, or seek to 'persuade' from the position of empathic understanding?

        Which would work better? Which one would be the most effective in reducing that oppression?
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          Feb 14 2012: Yeah.. I got a feeling three questions in a row is a bad combination; seems to be too much 'attacking'.
          But the only thing I want to do is to understand better the attitude you and others have.
          I read you reply, some questions emerged, I asked.
          I did not want to answer to the main topic (similar topics appear several times a week here), but some answers attracted me, the one raised the questions, which keep standing.
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        Feb 14 2012: I wasn't attacking you Julija.

        Like you, I ask questions in order to try and understand the subject and the people who speak about them.

        I'm genuinely interested in what you think about Erin's question from your perspective as a woman, and whether gender equality (or mutual respect) can be achieved through feminism - or something else?
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          Feb 14 2012: Hey! I was talking about myself, about my questions!
          It can't be achieved fully by feminism, but it's the tool to reach something certain quite fast compared to the process of traditions dying out which is main and overall but slow.
    • Feb 13 2012: Mutual respect was more the word I want to question, I missused equality in my original question, thus leading the question from its original intent. How do you propose we bring about this mutual respect?
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        Feb 14 2012: Hi Erin. I don't think mutual respect can ever come about from the polarization of opinion or belief, although it does appear to be a natural reaction people adopt to change something that appears to them to be extreme, or goes against what they represent.

        People have physical and psychological characteristics that they are born with. It is either genetic or circumstantial. There is no way that can be changed, even if they wanted to change. If someone then comes along and says "It offends me that you are male (or female)" or "I don't like the the fact you are black (or white)" or "You should not subscribe to that religion (or that science)", it becomes deeply offensive.

        The knee-jerk reaction is to then to polarize and to form extreme opposing groups. Like feminism against the male-dominated society.

        I think polarization comes about through the influences of opinion-forming outside agencies, like parental influences, politics, the media, the politicized and commodified forms of religion. As autonomous individuals without such influences, we would have little need to form these extremes.

        We only need to look at our children to see that untainted innocence bears no grudge against anyone at all. Children are free from prejudice and are all accepting, until their opinions are formed from exposure to outside influences that we adults have deemed to be the correct way to behave.

        Is this perhaps telling us that those outside influences are no longer fit for purpose in forming societies?

        I am of the opinion that the same outside influences have also given rise to many mental health problems. But maybe that is a subject for another thread.
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    Feb 13 2012: Erin, to be completely honest with you, the fact that I was not born with a pair of ovaries leading to my lack of ability to bear children seems so darn unfair. In your opinion, what am I supposed to do about it?
    • Feb 13 2012: I think you are missing the point of my question. Im talking about things like women getting paid less than men in the work place in the US.

      P.S. Despite the name I am also a Male. This is not a self-rightous, feminist post.
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        Feb 13 2012: That's good to know. Perhaps narrowing down your topic to something like "how do we achieve equal pay for women and men in the workplace..." could have helped?

        On second thought, isn't it also the responsibility of the women themselves to ask for whatever they think their productivity and contribution are worth in the workplace in order to bring on real change in our society?
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    Feb 14 2012: I believe that we need fairer treatment related to gender. To a woman a treatment relative to her gender, and a man a treatment related to his. On the material plan or career related matters, we do need to admit there a big gap to feel in order to bring justice to the feminine gender. What we need is to give the right values to our children since their childhood, so they have in value respect for human capacity, whether we are men or women.

    Therefor, we should not be mixing up unjustice caused to women with natural and sensual habits of co-existing together: habits like "galantery" and "chevalery" that put a little spice in our everyday life... a woman should feel ashamed of showing tenderness or any other good caring showing her sensual nature.

    I believe rather in "Equity" than "Equality", because we all are different in all points of view, even within the same gender. So let's develop more the question "equity" which calls more for justice to each individual in our society in consideration of his qualities and weaknesses.
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    Feb 14 2012: Gender equality is the same as all equality. When anyone despite gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability, is able to compete on equal grounds to fill any roll in society without being discriminated against.
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    Feb 13 2012: Why do we need gender equality? There is nothing more unequal than treating unequal as equals. I happen to think women are more sophisticated than men, i mean biologically. We'd have to destroy a lot to achieve this "gender equality" (whatever it means).
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      Feb 14 2012: It depends on how one defines "equality" between the genders. People often use percentage of female employees as a basis to measure equality, but that is a completely false standard. Should 50% of construction workers be female, simply because 50% of the population is female? The obvious answer is, no. A better way to measure equality is to compare percentage of applicants, to percentage of employees. If 10% of employees are female, yet 10% of applicants are female, then the system is extremely equal.
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        Feb 14 2012: I agree that definition will always be a problem - there is no way to define "equality". And, your better way to measure equality, i.e to compare percentage of applicants to percentage of employees, will destroy a working system. This means employers will have to deliberately employ women even though they are relatively incompetent just to meet the numbers. Keep in mind that employers use who seem best for the role.
      • Feb 15 2012: Hey Mike,

        I think another important indicator is the pace of wage growth for both men and women. This alleviated the fact that women and men tend to be in different fields of work (which compensate differently), and gives us an across-the-board analysis of gender compensation.

        Between 2007-09, men's wages grew by 2.0%, and women's by 1.9%. Very close to equal.

        I agree that how we define and measure equality is crucially important to the conversation.

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    Feb 13 2012: This is surely a complicated question. For this I would like to cite (in an as close as possible translation) Ruy Barbosa's (Brazilian prominent state member in the turn of the 20th century) speech for a graduation ceremony of law students in 1920:

    "The rule for equality consists in nothing else than charge in unequal ways those who are different, in the measure of the amount of difference between them. In the light of this social inequality, akin to the natural inequality, is where one would find the real law to equality. Anything else is a delirium of jealousy, of pride or from madness. Treating with inequality those who are equal, or the different ones in an equal way, would be a preposterous inequality, and not real equality."

    I really think that this thought is very close to the matter at hand. The genders are fundamentally different in body constitution, brain functioning, behavior, needs and a lot of other important issues. The genders are also very equal in capacity to produce and think, feel and express and another myriad of subjects.

    With that, my thinking of gender equality should lay on the differences and similarities.

    There's no point in searching for perfect equality, for that would be unfair for both sides. The constructive approach as I see it would be to make sure that woman and men are treated as the same for everything they share and that their differences must be respected and put into good use, making maximum room for both gender to flourish, share and collaborate.
    • Feb 13 2012: I agree. This was more a question to promote discussion than personal opinion. I personally think that it is impossible for Females=Males as I saw one person post, it is impossible. Take the old saying apples and oranges. My question is geared more towards things like in the work place women get paid less.
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        Feb 13 2012: And that is also my point. For things that could be done, the basis would be the assessment of equalities and differences inherent to the genders and make that baseline.

        Equal payment for equal productivity is a good example. Another priority thing would be to make certain that every right (constitutional, legal) should be applied equally to both (as also make sure that every responsibility would be distributed the same).

        Those are actions (not the only ones, just the initial ones) would be taken to take care of the equal aspects.

        Making affirmative health campaigns for both genders would be essential to take care of some of the differences, for instance.

        And finally, for both, to make sure that everyone is covered under the protection of the law, safeguarding the rights, acceptance, freedom and even the existence (sadly negated for women in many cases, in psychological and even physical levels) of both under the differences and equalities alike.
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      Feb 13 2012: Women gained the right to vote under the same literacy requirements as men in 1932 in Brazil.
      So you think this is wrong, OK. It's nice, of course, to get a very wide variety of opinions.
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        Feb 13 2012: Of course not, on the contrary. Suffrage is one of the points in which man and women are equal, it's a trait (the capacity and right to make decisions) both genders share. That's actually my point, in the matters of things that can be considered equal or equivalent, there should not be difference, as for things that are different, there should be distinction, as in ma last phrase:

        "The constructive approach as I see it would be to make sure that woman and men are treated as the same for everything they share and that their differences must be respected and put into good use, making maximum room for both gender to flourish, share and collaborate."

        But for the counter-example, things that are different, something I find very fair in Brazilian's labor regulation: There's a very well defined limit for weight carrying and suspension for women, but there's no such regulation for man.

        This respects the different biology, protecting women from work-force abuse.

        I'm sorry if I couldn't make myself clear.
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    Feb 15 2012: It occurs to me that gender inequality is how some people see the world. Not all of us see the world through the same lens. I learned some time back that if you look at the world through the lens of prejudice or inequality, there was no endpoint except anger. That if you see the world as an injustice, you will live a life of anger seeing prejudice and inequality in everything.

    I do not want to live my life that way.

    When I was coming up there were certain experiences that were not available to me because of my gender. There were certain experiences not available to me because of my race/heritage. Guess what? There were even certain experiences that were not available to me because of my stature (I am tall). Of all those reasons, I could not change any of them.

    Do I assign injustice to all these experiences that are not available? No because some matter and some do not. But I do not see the world as one giant injustice.
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    Feb 14 2012: Gender Equality does exist because it exists in my head, meaning my view of the world.
  • Feb 14 2012: I do believe somebody mentioned this, but to get "equality", it would be best to understand hands down that there are some things women do better than men, and some things men do better than women. Men and women also generally just think differently. Men are generally more "go for it" which makes men oftentimes more "leader-like". That's not to say women can't be leaders. Some women are born to be leaders.

    Feminism can be good, and depending on the person, it can be bad too. Equal rights for every person regardless of gender is very important. Breaking down the barriers and trying to make it seem as though, really, and that men and women aren't so different isn't true. Men and women are very different, and we both have different strengths and weaknesses. It is important to embrace this. To all the feminists who agree with that, great! That's important. To those who simply wish to say otherwise and break down the differences between man and woman - that's not good.
  • Feb 14 2012: i think equality between gender will be accepted when "i" and "we" can change sex easily.

    Today it's very difficult to take the other sex but one day, with technology and medicine, we will change all sex to have another approach, a passage of the one with the other so easy that we will be (several times in a life) woman and man. Female for February, male for April, transsexual for May… to turn over to female for June, etc.
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    Feb 14 2012: I have had both male and female bosses. Some were excellent. Some were on the ego trip of all time. The trait of the excellent "bosses" is that they were leaders who cared about their product and their employees. They earned their respect while others demanded it. The French have a phrase (excuse the spelling) creme de la creme - Litterally translated to mean the best of the best. I believe that the cream raises to the top regardless of the gender. If the best are not advanced perhaps it is time to evaluate your position and move on where your talents can be better utilized. In some cases the worth of the person was exagerated and were promoted to a position above their capabilities (the Peter Principle). The worst thing to have to work with is a person who pouts and rants about things not being fair. I want to work with and for those who demonstrate their worth. Things are always more equal to those who earn it.